Solar energy ends up being the most reliable and environmentally friendly source of energy.
To harness maximum out of solar panels they are installed on the rooftop or in an open area where maximum solar rays are available.
As these systems are installed in an open space, they usually get encountered with animal dropping and other environmental factors.
Consumers are often worried about these environmental issues and their consequences on solar panels.
But don’t worry! The only condition to enjoy the series of economic benefits solar panels offer for more than 25 years is a little protection against environmental threats.
In this article, we have defined some environmental factors affecting the solar panel lifespan and what are the preventive measures one must take against it.
Solar panel operation is often affected by the following factors:
- Bird droppings/Animal walking
- Weather conditions
- Fire or Excessive Heat
Let us check how solar panels can be protected from these factors.
1.Bird dropping/Animal walking:
As solar panels are placed on the rooftop or in an open area, bird droppings or animal walking such as monkeys, cats or dogs are the most common reason that affects the solar panel operation. Many birds build up nests under the solar panel that might affect the wiring system thus resulting in power outages(Bird nesting is not a big issue in India as in western countries).
Bird Dropping: Bird droppings result in reduced solar power efficiency as it blocks the particular part of the solar panel from irradiation. To remove bird dropping, regular cleaning of the solar panel with the mop and water is recommended, it will also help in removing the other dust deposition on the rest of the panel. Also, one can apply bird free fire gel or install bird protection.
Animal Walking/Bird Entering: To protect solar panels from animal walking/bird entering usually, critter guards/ solar bird netting which is a metal wiring cage-like structure is installed to protect the animals or birds entering underneath or above the solar panels. Usually, a monkey sitting on the solar panel is not a big issue as it is observed that the glass temperature during the daytime will make it difficult for the monkey or any other animal/bird to sit on the panel. Moreover, the weight of these animals won’t cause much damage to the solar panels as any other sharp objects would do.
2. Snow Fall:
At a location with continuous snowfall, consumers often come with a question: will the solar panel be able to generate electricity?
Well, if solar panels are covered with snow then the solar power output will decrease as the panels will be shaded. To overcome this, solar panels are installed in a way that they can easily slide off the melted snow; a higher tilt helps the snow melt faster.
But if a large amount of snow continuously falls at once on the roof, it may damage the roof integrity. To protect the solar panel and roof, one can install a snow guard with the solar panel at places with frequent snowfall. The solar snow guards are mostly installed on the edges, it helps in sliding off the snow in a step-by-step amount from the solar panels on the roof, or it holds on the snow on the roof till it melts down.
3. Weather Conditions:
The climatic conditions such as a hailstorm, heavy shower, hurricanes are the most common cause of worry for the consumers.
Heavy rain or hail storms can cause scratches on the solar panel. Hence to avoid these solar panels are manufactured and installed following all the standard test conditions to make them resistant to these environmental conditions.
Solar panels now come with a mechanical load capability of up to 5400 Pa to handle heavy rains or hail storms i.e. solar panels are durable during heavy rain and hailstorms.
Well, cloudy weather and heavy rain can affect the solar panel output. However, once the sun is out, the power output of the panel is restored. If handled and installed with care, damage can be avoided.
4. Fire or Excessive Heat:
Solar panels mounted on high roofs can catch fire! Wrong practices such as lighting bonfires or cooking near / beneath a solar panel can damage the panel in case the fire spreads.
Also overvoltage, power surges, lightning and defective equipment can cause a fire.
If proper air gap is not given with the roof, panels can overheat as there is no airflow to remove the heat from the panels. This practice should be avoided as it leads to a decrease in solar cell efficiency (solar cell efficiency drops with a rise in the temperature of the solar cell). It may also permanently damage the solar panels.
Consumers while installing solar panels often want to cut the cost incurred by protection system installation. They usually considered this as just an “additional cost”. However, installation of a solar protection system might seem just an additional cost, but cutting this cost can lead to partial or complete loss of the solar system in addition to damage to the property and / or humans nearby.
Lightning is the most common cause of external surges and transients in the PV system.
Surges are the sudden rise or fall in voltage, current or power that can affect the photovoltaic system. To protect the electrical loads from transients and surges, surge protection devices must be installed ( in the junction boxes) while installing the system.
A lightning protection system (lightning arrestor) is installed on the topmost point in the building to protect the solar PV system from direct lightning.
To protect the solar panel system from direct and indirect lightning effects, it is recommended to install both lightning and surge protection systems, especially ones which are on tall buildings.
1.Are the solar panels resistant to water?
Yes, solar panel manufacturers take utmost care against environmental threats affecting the solar panel’s lifespan.
All solar panels are IP67/IP68 rated – they are water-resistant, utmost care is taken during manufacturing that water falling on the panel is prevented from entering the solar panel.
2. Does even a small metal element placed on a solar panel can damage the solar panels?
Yes, screws and other small metal parts can lead to scratches on the solar panel.
The glass covering solar cells protects them from all types of damages, but the laying of any sharp objects or any other sparking can cause micro-cracks and may eventually damage the solar panel.
While installing or repairing solar panels, one must avoid placing any heavy material on top of it to avoid solar panel damages.
3.Does weather conditions impact the efficiency of solar panels, are solar panels worthy to install in open areas?
Weather conditions do impact solar panel output but solar installation is still worth the investment.
Solar panels are manufactured following all the standard test conditions and are mechanically tested against various environmental threats. So as a consumer the only thing you need to follow is little maintenance and adding the protective devices (as per the requirements) to ensure the long-run benefits of solar energy.
If you want to know more about solar photovoltaic systems, you can check out our blog which defines a set of benefits one can enjoy by moving towards solar power at your commercial or business location.