SolarWash: First Automated Cleaning Solution for Solar Panels

Keeping solar panels clean is an important part in helping them to work at their best, and yet is something not often talked about. OCS Energy however, is changing that by introducing an automated solar panel cleaning system.

It is the first commercially available system of its kind and, the company claims, will shorten the payback period for solar panel investments. So, is a system like this worth it?Here's the rundown of how it works:

SolarWash attaches directly to an array of PV panels and is controlled by a microprocessor, providing PV system operators a turnkey cleaning solution without having to manually wash each panel. The patent pending SolarWash system provides a complete solar cleaning solution including maintenance free nozzles, a web based interface, and a programmable logic controller (PLC). The end to end solution allows operators of large PV systems to effectively manage their resources, initiating the washing of panels without the need to schedule a maintenance crew.

The accumulation of dust, dirt, bird poo, moss, leaves and other roof-top gook reduces the ability of the array to perform at its best. This cleaning system is supposed to reduce the amount of manual labor that goes in to maintaining a PV array, and so reduce its cost while upping its performance level.

"We are seeing our 400 kilowatt (kW) system's energy output decrease by as much as 25% after a few months of dirt build up, and manual cleanings have turned out to be
both time and cost prohibitive," said Ron Newdoll, CEO of Accurate Solar Power. "I am
looking forward to the installation of the SolarWash system as an automated and reliable solution to our PV maintenance problem."

The company reports that the system will pay for itself within 3-5 years with PV systems that are experiencing an energy degradation of 5% or greater due to dirtiness, making a system like this a reasonable investment to ensure you get the most out of an expensive investment.

Really, its a little surprising that the effect dirt and debris has on a solar array isn't discussed more, but understandable since no one really likes to clean house. Even durability issues barely get a nod. Though I suppose it is because everyone loves to see amazing new innovations and efficiency records more than basic care that boosts an array's potential.

More on Solar Panel Efficiency:
19.9%: New Thin Film Solar Efficiency Record
Day4 Energy Solar Panel Breakthrough: 25% Cheaper, on Sale Within 18 Months
15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations You Must See
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