How Will Solar Panel Cleaning Develop In The UK During 2014?

How Will Solar Panel Cleaning Develop In The UK During 2014?

How Will Solar Panel Cleaning In The UK Develop During 2014? 

Clean Solar Solutions Ltd fully expect solar panel cleaning in 2014 to become a mainstay of the solar industry.  Interest in solar panel cleaning really started to take off during 2013.  As a company, we had enquiries about our solar panel cleaning service come flooding in from all parts of the UK and from all sorts of sectors.  We had calculated that 2013 would be the year that interest in solar panel cleaning would grow, but it exceeded even our expectations.  In 2012 we made projections to clean around 3,000-4,000 solar panels during 2013.  We had hit that target by early April and then went on to clean over 53,000 solar panels in that year!  Therefore, we predict that interest in solar panel cleaning will develop even further during 2014 and will prove to be even more popular in all sectors of the solar industry.  We have set ourselves the target of cleaning over 75,000 solar panels in 2014.

This year, many solar panel installers made contact with us, asking us to help them provide a solar panel cleaning service to their clients.  We built working relationships and partnerships with companies such as British Gas Solar, Anesco, Solarsense UK and a whole host of others.  We know that some other large solar panel installers are looking to follow the lead of these forward-thinking companies and implement their own solar Operations and Maintenance departments during 2014.  Many installation companies now consult with us during the planning phase of projects, to see what access we need to roof mounted installs in particular, in order to carry out the regular cleaning of the solar panels.  We fully expect the planning of regular cleaning of solar panels on future projects to become a more prominent feature in 2014.  

Why The Sudden Interest In Solar Panel Cleaning?

In the earlier days of installing solar panels, many brands were marketed, sold and mis-sold in some cases, under the guise of their being self-cleaning.  This is a selling point which has, in many cases, proved itself to be untrue.  Less and less installers  now say that their solar panels are self-cleaning because the hard facts and experience are proving otherwise.  Over the last few years since the solar boom in 2011, output of arrays all over the UK have started to fall, slowly in some cases, but rapidly in others.  In fact, many solar panel manufacturers recommend solar panel cleaning.  Many solar installers that currently have their own Operations and Maintenance departments use Clean Solar Solutions Ltd to carry out the solar panel cleaning for them.  Operations and Maintenance departments will probably be the biggest influence on solar panel cleaning during 2014 and we expect to work alongside many of them. 

How Was The Need For Solar Panel Cleaning In The UK Identified?

In many parts of the country, owners of solar panels that were installed during 2010-11 were calling the installer of the solar panels to see if there was a problem with their inverter.  Their solar generation in 2012 was no where near what it was during 2010-11, when their solar panels were first installed. In 2013, they did not want to see a further decline, so the owner of the solar panels would pay to have their inverter serviced.  It was noted in the vast majority of cases that we have been told about, that the problem was not with the inverter, but was down to the dirt accumulation on the solar panels.  It was then that we were contacted by installers to go out and clean the solar panels, to see if we could boost the electricity generation on the solar array, which we duly did.  Solar array owners were delighted to again see their solar panels producing as they did when they were first installed. 

With nearly 20 experience in the external cleaning industry, Steve Williams, Managing Director of Clean Solar Solutions Ltd, recognised that as the solar panel technology was, solar panels everywhere would need cleaning regularly.  He explains, "All surfaces from cars to boats and airplanes, through to garden slabs, windows and UPVC, when exposed for extended periods of time to the elements, all need cleaning.  Why would solar panels be any different?  If vertical windows accumulate dirt and block out light, how much more so will solar panels that are fixed at an angle."  

It was with this in mind that at the beginning of 2013, we started collating output data from solar panels all over the UK that were mounted at different angles and in a variety of environmental conditions.  Data was collected from coastal, rural and urban regions and all of the data gave the same outcome:  Over time, solar output decreased on a solar panel array the longer it was installed.  These solar panels, when cleaned, saw significant increases in electricity generation.  The challenge we faced was knowing how often solar panels needed cleaning so that the owner of the array could spend money having their solar panels cleaned, but still ensure that the cost of the cleaning would not outweigh the financial benefits that solar panel cleaning would bring.  E.g. It is no financial benefit having your solar panels cleaned for £100.00 if the extra electricity the array would make as a result of cleaning was only £80.00.  The cost and frequency of the solar panel cleaning had to add up into a sensible package that would ultimately benefit the owner of the solar panels financially.

What Will Solar Panel Cleaning Mean To Owners Of Solar Farms In 2014?

If you own solar panels, it is extremely likely that they will need cleaning at some point during 2014.  The biggest financial losers from having dirty solar panels are obviously those who own or benefit from large solar farms.  Multi-MW solar farms are expected to produce hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds worth of revenue to the owner of the array each year.  The users of the electricity the solar farm produces need the solar farm to be producing to its maximum potential as much of the time as possible.  It is therefore in the interests both of the user of the electricity and of the owner of large multi-MW solar farms to have clean, efficient solar panels.  

Using conservative figures, a drop of just 5% in output, which is easily achievable in dusty rural fields, can severely dent the financial forecasts for that solar farm.  A large solar farm loses thousands of pounds worth of generation daily if the solar panels are not as clean as they should be.  E.g. If a solar farm expects to produce £500,000 of revenue during the course of a year, but loses just 5% of generation due to dirty panels, this means a loss of £25,000 during year 1.  If the panels are still not cleaned, that loss of generation can easily increase to 10%, meaning a loss of £50,000 in revenue.  Over the course of just 2 years, that solar farm has lost £75,000 in revenue.  This means it can take at least an extra year before you get back your original return-on-investment.  Solar panel cleaning increases output in generation and can prevent such massive financial losses.  It is not difficult to see that solar panel cleaning makes sense, especially on large solar farms. 

What Will Solar Panel Cleaning Mean To The Agricultural And Commercial Sectors In 2014?

If you are a farm owner, your solar panels will definitely need cleaning during 2014.  Our experience continues to prove time and again that solar panel cleaning brings significant financial benefits to farmers.  The agricultural community sees the largest percentage losses on their solar arrays, regularly between 20%-50%.  This is often down to the dusty atmosphere that often prevails on farms, along with the shallow angle that solar panels are often mounted at on farm buildings.  Agricultural dust and the shallow angle of roof really is a killer-combo for reducing electricity output.  Regular solar panel cleaning on farms is essential.

Solar panels that have been mounted on commercial roofs see the second largest decline in output. This again is largely down to the shallow angle of the roofs that solar panels are mounted on.  The dust on such buildings, depending on what is produced in the air locally, can leave a very oily or sticky substance on solar panels which rainwater will not remove, which will again reduce their output.  Because many businesses have had a solar array installed to reduce their rising electricity bill, it is very important that their solar array is performing to the best of it's capability for the business to see the most financial benefit.

How Will Clean Solar Solutions Ltd Grow During 2014?

As mentioned earlier, we already exceeded our expectations for solar panel cleaning during 2013.  We have set our sights on cleaning around 50% more solar panels during 2014.  We have set a target of cleaning 75,000 solar panels during 2014 alone.  We continually invest in the latest solar panel cleaning equipment, research trends in data from our solar panel cleaning service and look to streamline our service where possible.  2014 will see more research in the UK than ever into the scientific benefits of solar panel cleaning.  As a company, we are in contact with professors at various universities and researchers at the National Solar Centre at St. Austell, helping to push this exciting new industry forward.  We are also involved in setting up a training course with the sole aim of training and regulating professional solar panel cleaners across the UK. 

2014 will be a huge year in the progress of the solar panel cleaning industry in the UK and Clean Solar Solutions Ltd hope to continue to be a large part of it. 

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