Cleaning your solar panels – Why is it important?

Solar panels, due to their upward angle, are susceptible to bird droppings and the accumulation of dust and dirt that cannot be washed away by rain alone. This accumulation diminishes the amount of light that reaches the panel, resulting in reduced output. Since solar panel manufacturers and installers base their projected energy figures on the optimal performance of clean panels, this dirt buildup can negatively impact the panel’s ability to meet those expectations. Therefore, it is crucial to clean solar panels to safeguard and preserve your investment. Regular cleaning of solar panels also maximises the benefits of the government feed-in tariff.

Although solar panel cleaning is a relatively recent practice in the UK, it has long been employed in other parts of the world. Early adopters of this technology quickly realised that regular cleaning was essential for maintaining the panels’ peak performance. While a study conducted in the US suggests that solar panel cleaning may not be necessary in certain climates, it has been proven that cleaning is indeed vital for solar panels in the UK.

Solar panels work by allowing light into the solar cells. The more light that hits a panel, the more power it will generate.

Can it improve efficiency?

For several years now, we have been closely monitoring the remarkable efficiency gains that result from cleaning solar panels. On agricultural sites, we consistently witness substantial increases in solar efficiency, with improvements of up to 30% observed. Our clients have provided readings to validate the effectiveness of solar panel cleaning in enhancing the output and efficiency of their arrays. Additionally, operations and maintenance departments of solar companies we have served have reported similar efficiency boosts resulting from panel cleaning.

In the case of industrial and commercial sites, we have documented impressive increases of up to 60%, while residential arrays have experienced enhancements of up to 21%.

Our own research findings align with those of the World Academy of Science, Engineering & Technology, who emphasise that a decline in the efficiency of solar PV panels is undesirable. They identify accumulated dust as a contributing factor to this efficiency decrease and highlight the necessity of dust removal to ensure optimal performance. The Solar Energy Power Association notes that dirty solar panels can lose up to 20% of their energy output, while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates this loss to be even higher, at 25%. Recent studies conducted by universities demonstrate that a dirty solar panel can experience a staggering 50% reduction in efficiency compared to a clean panel.

Solar panels work by allowing light into the solar cells. The more light that hits a panel, the more power it will generate.

Why Rainwater Will Not Clean Your Solar Panels

To understand why rainwater is ineffective at cleaning solar panels, we can draw a parallel with your car’s windscreen. Consider what would happen if you neglected to clean your windscreen for six months. Gradually, the grime on the surface would accumulate and eventually develop a greenish hue. Even if it rained, the airborne dust particles present in the rainwater would settle and cling to the surface once the water evaporated. While using the windscreen wipers would clean the central portion of the screen, the areas beyond their reach would remain covered in a layer of dirt. The entirety of your solar panel faces a similar situation as the edges of your car windscreen since both are exposed to the same elements. The loss of visibility through your windscreen occurs due to reduced light transmission. Consequently, these same principles apply to the cleaning of solar panels. Maximizing the amount of light that reaches the solar panel is crucial for optimizing its performance and, in turn, increasing the financial benefits it provides.

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