Everything listed under: Information

  • The Importance Of Solar Panel Cleaning In Australian O&M

    Solar panel cleaning across Australia is increasing in importance.  It is a growing part of the Australian operations and maintenance (O&M) market.  As of January 2017, Australia had 5.7GW of solar installed, with 0.7GW being installed during 2016.  We now rank in the top 10 solar energy producing nations in the world.  There is set to be a flurry of solar installation activity across Australia, with over 800MW set to be installed across just 7 locations.  As time passes, the rate of solar installations increases across Australia, but so does the need to operate and maintain these arrays.  Testing, servicing and monitoring these assets is a given.  Other services carry a little more controversy it seems and solar panel cleaning is one of them.  But just taking into account the 800MW recently approved to be installed, this will mean an additional 3.2 million solar panels that will need an O&M contract.  What role is solar panel cleaning likely to play in these contracts and others?

    Robotic Solar Panel Cleaning Australia

    Do Solar Panels Even Need Cleaning?

    It is an often debated subject in countries where solar technology is taking off big time. Australia firmly fits that bracket. Just over 400 years since Shakespeare penned his famous words in Macbeth, we now ask about solar panels "To clean or not to clean?  That is the question".

    In 2015, a key figure in the Australian solar industry somewhat controversially claimed that "solar panels do not need ongoing cleaning or yearly maintenance - they are cleaned by the rain".   At best, this is mis-information.  Clean Solar Solutions feel that thinking of this type is pretty pre-historic.  The collated evidence from all corners of the world proves that the notion of self cleaning panels is indeed a complete myth. Rain will not clean solar panels any more than it will clean any other outdoor surface.  It is worrying that top figures voice their opinion that there is no need for solar panel cleaning, when there very clearly is.

    Bird droppings, bee pollen, dust, traffic film and other sources of detritus can adhere to solar panels quite strongly and in hotter areas of the country, this can become baked on to the panel and prove very difficult to remove, without damaging the panel.

    Do Asset Owners Clean Their Solar Panels Overseas?

    Yes.  Cast your eye over to Europe in particular at the moment and you will see a burgeoning solar panel cleaning industry. In fact, organisations such as the UK Solar Trade Association and Solar Power Europe are in discussions to now regulate the blossoming European solar panel cleaning industry by way of training and certification. They are seeking to professionalise solar panel cleaning to the point whereby you must hold a valid training certificate in order to clean solar panels. Anyone cleaning without that certificate will be operating outside the Law.

    Self Cleaning Solar Panels Do Not Exist

    Should Window Cleaners Be Cleaning Solar Panels?

    No, not without adequate training and knowledge.  Presently in Australia, it seems that every window cleaner and their dog claims they are a 'solar panel cleaning professional' and some even claim to be 'fully trained'. Ask your local window cleaner for a certificate of their training though and they most likely will not be able to produce one.

    This is a phenomena that has been seen in other countries such as the UK.  The risks associated with solar panel cleaning is one of the reasons that the UK feels the need to start regulating this new industry. In fact, one window cleaner in the UK has already suffered serious electrocution and spent six weeks in hospital revering as a direct result of cleaning solar panels.

    There are also documented cases of firefighters experiencing electrocution whilst putting out fires.  It is a serious concern that many window cleaners are simply not aware of.

    Window cleaners may own many of the same tools as solar panel cleaning professionals, but merely owning the same working tools, does not mean they are qualified, nor knowledgeable. One may own a set of screwdrivers and know how to re-wire a plug on an appliance, but this certainly does not qualify him to re-wire his home. So it is with solar panel cleaning. There is increased risk associated with solar panel cleaning, that simply does not exist with window cleaning.

    Electricity, a potential killer, does not flow through a pane of glass. Spraying electricity on to an electrified panel whilst holding a carbon pole in your hand sounds like an ideal way to open yourself up to electrocution to us! We know from experience, that window cleaners the land over are not even considering this risk, let alone taking precautions to protect themselves from it.  Below is one of the many examples of a window cleaner cleaning solar panels with no PPE to protect him from electrocution.

    Window Cleaners Are Open To Electrocution When They Clean Solar Panels

    Training for solar panel cleaning is very important to ensure that your asset and the people cleaning your asset are kept safe.  All Clean Solar Solutions cleaning operatives have been specifically trained for solar panel cleaning, carry certification for such and use appropriate PPE.  We also carry in our vehicles appropriate equipment, should electrocution occur.

    Cleaning your own solar panels or employing the services of a window cleaner to clean them in the above fashion is definitely not recommended.  PPE must be in place to protect solar panel cleaners from electrocution.  Asset owners can do their part to highlight the danger with correct signage.

    Solar Panel Electrocution Warning Sign

    Technology continues to be developed for solar panel cleaning. Everything from manual cleaning to robotic cleaning to tractor mounted cleaning is being tried and tested in various applications. It seems that all have their pros and cons, but the message overseas is consistent, solar panels need to be cleaned.

    What Do Solar Panel Manufacturers Warranties Say About Solar Panel Cleaning?

    Cleaning is recommended by virtually all solar panel manufacturers.  Look through solar panel manufacturers warranty documents and virtually every single one will are reference to 'annual' or 'regular cleaning'. Already, when claims are being made against warranties on faulty solar panels, the manufacturers are asking the claimant to provide proof that the panels have been cleaned regularly. If this evidence cannot be produced, the warranty is often declared void. This alone should be a reason for any solar array owner to start getting their panels cleaned if they do not already.

    How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned?

    This is one of the most common questions that we are asked. Currently, when it comes to cleaning anything, we tend to do so based on frequency. We may clean our car once a week, clean our windows once a month or clean our driveway once a year. But the thinking regarding solar panel cleaning needs to be different. Cleaning your car, windows or driveway, will likely not result in bettering its performance and mean you have more money in your pocket. This is the case however with cleaning your solar panels. Cleaning your solar panels regularly will help them produce more electricity and help you save more money off your energy bill.

    As a result, we feel that solar panel cleaning needs to be a finance-based decision, as opposed to a frequency-based decision.  

    Solar Panel Cleaning Benefit Must Outweigh The Cost

    Steve Williams, M.D. Of Clean Solar Solutions Ltd explains more: "This idea of solar panel cleaning being a finance-based decision is one that we promote heavily in the UK. The industry there is listening too. There is little point spending $100 having your solar panels cleaned if it will only give you an extra $75 in uplift. But as soon as the uplift is more than $100, you should be cleaning your panels."

    Why Choose Clean Solar Solutions To Clean Your Solar Panels?

    Clean Solar Solutions have over 5 years experience of cleaning solar panels in the UK. They cleaned over 250MW in 2016 alone, more than any other UK company.

    We have experience of cleaning utility scale ground mount and large scale roof mounted solar arrays both automatically and manually. We have cleaned solar carports and even floating solar panels!

    We are committed to professionalising our industry and as a result, have developed a solar panel cleaning training course and also advise the UK solar industry about health and safety for solar panel cleaning.

    Solar Panel Cleaning Training From Clean Solar Solutions

    Managing Director Steve Williams has a deep knowledge of the solar panel cleaning industry as a whole and regularly speaks at solar conferences and trade shows to international audiences. All of our accumulated experience over a number of years in many different applications, means that you can be assured that your solar panels will be in safe hands when it comes to having them cleaned by Clean Solar Solutions.

    While solar panels have been around for some time, the professional solar panel cleaning industry is only just gaining traction here in Australia.  It will be fascinating to see how it develops and grows in importance in the Australian solar O&M industry in the coming years.

  • Solar Panel Cleaning Training Raises Australian Safety Awareness

    Solar panel cleaning training is now available across Australia from Clean Solar Solutions.  With safety concerns growing among certain sections of the Australian solar industry, Clean Solar Solutions are looking to utilise the experience we have accumulated over the last 5 years to raise the health & safety bar and bring uniformity to a rapidly growing sector of the industry.

    Steve Williams, M.D. of Clean Solar Solutions Ltd observes "It is noticeable that there is a growth in new O&M companies.  Just as with installations companies, there will be different standards from O&M companies.  Some will not be so good and some will be excellent.  Through mass training, we are looking to unify our own teams all over Australia and at the same time, look to train others who are interested in providing a solar panel cleaning service.  This is important due to the risks involved to both persons and property when cleaning solar panels.

    "There is a danger that we will get a repeat performance of what happened during the UK installation boom.  Hundreds of electricians across the UK saw solar panel installation as a profitable add-on to their business.  What became apparent over time was that there was the good, the bad and the crooked.  While there are some high quality companies who pride themselves on their high levels of service, there are now other companies out there with little or no knowledge of solar panel cleaning, who are adding it to their list of services.  This is a particular worry due to the very real risk of electrocution and damage to systems whilst cleaning solar panels.   

    "Solar panel cleaning carries inherent risks and should not be undertaken by anyone without specific training.  As we all know though, there are sub-standard panels out there that made their way into the Australian market.  These substandard panels and shoddy installs are the reason  that solar panel cleaning training is very important.  People need to know how to stay safe whilst at work, even when unknowingly working on substandard installs.  Training is the best way to do this."

    The UK's first solar panel cleaning training event took place on 25th April 2015.  Clean Solar Solutions have since trained over 150 people in the solar industry as they forge the health and safety path for solar panel cleaning in the UK.  They are now bringing that wealth of experience to Australian shores.

    Steve Williams concludes "It is our firm hope that by providing solar panel cleaning training in Australia, we will raise the health and safety bar for solar panel cleaning in Australia.  Safety is paramount to us.  We are considered by many to have pioneered solar panel cleaning in the UK.  We want to continue to grow and prove that having a trained member of Clean Solar Solutions staff clean your solar panels, we will provide you with the highest quality of service, coupled with an excellent health and safety ethic."

    If you would like more information about our solar panel cleaning training events, please feel free to contact us.

  • Can You Clean Your Own Solar Panels In Australia?

    ‘Can I clean my own solar panels?’ is a question more and more people in the Australia are asking. Many properties all over the Australia now have solar panels and they continue to be installed on homes, farms and businesses. More and more multi-MW solar farms continue to be developed.

    Time has proven that solar panels are not self-cleaning abut that regular cleaning is needed to keep them running efficiently, especially in the Australian climate. This has put an extra cost to a solar array owner that they may not have anticipated. Rather than wanting to pay a professional, some people feel that cleaning solar panels is rather like cleaning windows and choose to try to clean their own solar panels. Is cleaning your solar panels yourself a good idea?

    Put simply, no, cleaning your panels is not a good idea.  There are common risks with cleaning your own solar panels, which include electrocution and working at height.  Both should not be undertaken without suitable training.

    It is also important to know what solar panel manufacturers say about solar panel cleaning. Following are quotes from instructions and warranties of solar panel manufacturers. BP Solar, Trina, Schott, Sharp and Axter are some of the most popular solar panel brands. Yingli are a brand that is known internationally and were official sponsors of the 2014 World Cup. All are authoritative sources of information.

    BP Solar: “Do not attempt to access the roof and wash the solar array unless safety precautions to prevent falling from heights are in place. The risk of falling from height is increased with a sloped surface that has been made slippery by water.”

    Falls from height are the most common cause of fatality in the workplace each year. There are thousands of accidents from people working at height in the UK each year. This is because many either lack training or lack the safety measures necessary in order to safely work at height.
     Solar panels are often mounted on sloped roofs, at height. If you are not trained or do not have the correct safety equipment available, it is ill-advised to try and clean your own solar panels.  the gentlemen below may look professional, but obviously lack training in the correct use of ladders.  Neither are even holding on!  

    Yingli Solar: “Water with high mineral content may leave deposits on the glass surface and is not recommended.”

    Normal tap water contains a high mineral content. Why is this not suitable for cleaning your own solar panels? Mineral deposits in your water will leave grey or white mineral deposits on your solar panels which, when dry, are very difficult to remove. These mineral deposits create shading on the solar panel and reduce the output. If you try to remove dust or bird droppings and try to clean your own solar panels with tap water, you may replace one type of dirt which is easy for a professional to remove with another which is difficult even for solar panel cleaning professionals to remove.  If the water on the picture below were tap water, when it dried, that pattern would be left, but in white mineral deposit.

    Schott & Sharp:  "Do not use high pressure spray or chemicals to clean the modules."

    Yingli Solar:  "In order to avoid module damage, do not clean PV modules with a power washer or pressure washer."

    Axter:  "Pressurised power washers should not be used directly on the laminates."

    If you are choosing to clean your own solar panels you may notice that some marks are especially stubborn, such as bird droppings.  Solar panels can get incredibly hot and bake bird droppings to the surface of the panel.  The temptation may be to reach for the trusty pressure washer.  Clearly though, solar panels are not deigned to take such pressures, a fact that the gentleman below, again a professional-looking man fails to take note of. 

    Yingli Solar: “Failure to comply with the requirements listed in this manual will invalidate the Limited Warranty for PV Modules as provided by Yingli Solar at the time of sale to the direct customer.”

    Cleaning your own solar panels if done just once incorrectly can invalidate the warranty of your solar panels. Should you have a problem and your manufacturer discovers you have been cleaning your own solar panels, your warranty may be rendered invalid and your expensive investment be wasted. On the other hand, if you have a problem with your array and you can prove by way of receipts or a cleaning log to your manufacturer that your solar panels have regularly been cleaned by solar panel cleaning professionals, your warranty will stay intact.

    Axter: "A grid connected General Solar PV system is a potentially dangerous, high voltage electrical generator. Use caution when cleaning PV modules, as the combination of water and electricity may present a shock hazard."

    Trina: "Improper maintenance can cause lethal electric shock and/or burns."

    One aspect that is often overlooked by those who choose to clean their own solar panels is the very real risk of electrocution. Water and electricity is never a good mix. Should water find a way into the workings of a solar panel or into some lose wiring, a nasty DC shock will result. As professional solar panel cleaners, we have safety measures in place which protects our workforce from electrocution while they are cleaning solar panels. This is perhaps the most important reason why you should not try to clean your own solar panels.

    In conclusion, can you clean your own solar panels? The answer is yes if you can meet the following criterion:
     1. You are trained for working at height and have suitable safety measures in place to protect you from falling from your roof.
     2. You do not use water with a high mineral content, such as tap water.
     3. You take steps to protect yourself from electrocution.

    With this in mind, next time you wonder ‘Can I clean my own solar panels?’ it may be advisable to call in the professionals.