By John Dodge
Posting in Energy
True or false? Solar panels are maintenance free. Wrong! When Google cleaned its solar panels specified to generate 1.6 megawatts, it reaped major gains in output. by John Dodge
True or false? Solar panels are maintenance free.
False! When Google cleaned its solar panels specified to generate 1.6 megawatts, it reaped major gains in output. The installation is at the Mountain View Googleplex headquarters where the sun shines a lot and the temperature ranges between the high 50s and low 80s - ideal for solar.
After analyzing "mountains of data," Google cleaned the flat-mounted panels following 15 months of operation and output doubled. They were cleaned again eight months later and output spiked 36%, according to Google's blog. These panels were located near car ports and a sand field so the surrounding atmosphere was dusty and dirty.
"We found that cleaning these panels is the #1 way to maximize the energy they produce," the blog says. See the video below on how to clean solar panels. Google's rooftop panels were sufficiently angled and rain-washed so only the corners collected dirt had to be cleaned.
It's a different story in the Northeast where weather dynamics are markedly different.
"Snow cover is an issue. I could just not worry about it, but then I'd lose most of my output until it melted. In a winter like last year, it can be pain. I was out there 10 times," says West Newbury, Mass. resident Rick Parker with his 3.6 kilowatt home installation. His cleaning tool is a car windshield brush attached to a long handle.
The only other time he cleans his panels is hosing them down to remove pollen in spring and early summer. They are angled at 35.5 degrees, face south and sit on a separate platform behind his garage.
"Otherwise, they clean themselves on their own accord in spring, summer and fall. I rub my fingers across them to see if there is [visually] undetectable grit and they come off clean," he says.
Parker's installation will be exactly two years old two days from now and has met his expectations. However, output in the second year is down eight per cent from the first. He suspects the culprit is weather, not panel degradation.
"This has been a very rainy and cloudy year." The panels have cut his electric bill by 70-75 per cent.
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Aug 4, 2009
Dasprem, Good suggestion about RainX. I'll suggest that to Rick Parker who's quoted in the post. You'd think someone would come up with something like car windshield washer for solar panels! JD
Has anyone thought of using the car windscreen product 'RainX' on these panels? I am sure it would extent the period between maintenance by a large margin.
A study conducted by the DOE affirmed that it takes more energy to produce and operate a solar array than they can reasonably be expected to produce during the anticipated lifetime. Moreover, the energy to produce and operate these arrays, with tiny exceptions, comes from fossil fuels. The green industry is also finding that all of those wonderful wind generators with those huge rotor blades are as expensive to maintain as the rotor blades on a helicopter. If, and it happens quite often, one blade fails the hub that controls the pitch of the blades also fails and the coupling to the alternator is also damaged . Are Americans being sold a bill of goods by the Obama Administration? They are obviously trying to emulate a disastrous Carter Administration that went down that same road. Can the problems that have been known for years be solved? We have had more than a quarter of a century to develop solutions and none have been forth coming .
Wow, it took google "mountains of data" to figure out they have to keep these things clean!? Holy Moly.
RainX creates a surface that is Hydrophobic which is not ideal for keeping a surface clean, especially with the antireflective coating found on solar panels. What you want is for the surface to be hydrophilic or water loving. This will keep the solar panels clean for longer For more information search hydrophilic on Wikipedia or visit our website. SolarPanelCleaningCA.com