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Common Solar Panel Cleaning Methods


Solar Panel cleaning methods should be:

Effective

The panels must be as clean as new.

Affordable

The cost must be substantially less than the money you'll lose from the reduced output.

Safe for the panels

Damage to the solar panel surfaces, electrics, frames and support structures must be prevented.

Water efficient

If you have irregular rainfall, you don't want to use all your water on maintaining your panel output.

Regular

Weekly is optimum, but at least monthly is essential to have any real effect on average output.

Convenient

It must be simple and easy: automatic would be best.

How the Usual Methods Compare

Manual Cleaning

Cheap if done regularly by owner, expensive if done by contractor. Hazards require OH&S precautions if rooftop. Brushes and abrasive dirt can scratch panel surface. Water blasters can penetrate and corrode electrical connections. Inconvenient. No control over water usage.

Water Spray

Low capital cost, no labour cost. Requires mounting facilities not available on standard arrays. Some have no control over water consumption, with overspray and wind-blown mist losses.

Vehicle Mounted

$AU174,000 - $217,000. Requires operator and fuel, generates diesel exhaust particles. Brushes and abrasive dirt can scratch panel surfaces and raise dust. High pressure blasters can penetrate and corrode electrical connections. No control over water usage. Suitable only for large-scale ground-mounted arrays.

Semi-Mechanised

$AU2,000 - $12,000; robotic ~$70,000. Requires staff to move between frames, and to control; some require lifting equipment. Brushes and abrasive dirt can scratch panel surface. May place excessive load on module surface or frame. No control over water usage. Suitable only for large-scale arrays. 

Fully Automated

~$AU450,000 for 10MW plant. No labour cost. Brushes and abrasive dirt can scratch panel surface. May require mounting facilities not available on standard arrays or place excessive load on module frame. No control over water usage. Suitable only for large-scale arrays.

Our paper, "Cleaning Solar Panels" covers this topic in full details: it's a 3MB download - click here.

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