Lions and tigers and ash on my solar panels, oh my!

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What a brutal few weeks it has been. Our climate is speaking to us: We can see, taste and smell it. And, our solar panels are not happy either. Analogous to what you see on your windshield, solar panels are clouded with ash from the Mendo Complex and Carr fires (of late) and others. Yuck … makes me want to hop on a tree stump and paraphrase Dr. Seuss: I AM THE LORAX AND I SPEAK FOR THE SOLAR PANELS, FOR THE PANELS HAVE NO TONGUES, NOW LISTEN TO ME!

We monitor 200+ Repower homeowners’ solar systems 2-3 times each week, evaluating their solar generation vis-a-vis National Renewable Energy Lab projections. Though it’s at the bottom of residual impacts of the fires — we’re simply talking about electricity generation! — our solar systems are generating 10-20% less electricity over the past 10 days. Some days are worse than others … Monday (August 6) was horribly suffocating for solar panels.

What to do? Here’s an excerpt from an article we composed last summer about keeping your solar panels clean:

As solar panels have no moving parts, the main area of maintenance is to keep them clean. We recommend to check the panels periodically especially during dry periods when precipitating dust occurs with the morning dew. Dirty panels can reduce electricity production as much as 8-12% (results from Department of Energy studies vary). Most dirt can be easily removed with water sprayed from a hose or from rainfall. (Do NOT use high-pressure sprayers as it can damage the seals around the frame.) Important: Wash/spray the panels in the morning to reduce drastic temperature changes. If you cannot ascend your roof, simply spray from the ground and let gravity do the trick … a small wave of water will cleanse most dust. Do not scrub the panels with any harsh materials. If a brush is needed, make sure it has soft bristles, or opt for a common window squeegee. If you notice rapid dirt build up—or bird droppings—then more frequent cleanings are warranted.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions about how and when to clean your solar panels. And, most important, let’s hope the fires cease and our air quality improves.