Preparing your solar system for summer: Monitoring, preventative maintenance and cleaning - by Steve Bianchi

May 05, 2017 - Green Buildings
Steve Bianchi, Solect Energy

Spring and summer bring obvious advantages for solar energy generation. Longer, sunnier days increase a system’s production, and in turn positively impact its return on investment. In order to ensure optimal production and ROI, it’s important to make sure solar arrays operate efficiently through the spring and summer months after long seasons of snow, ice and dirt buildup.

Comprehensive operations and maintenance service programs are designed to ensure your solar system is safe and running at optimal levels at all times. In preparation for solar’s peak production season, there are a few specific services to consider to make sure you’re getting the most out of your solar investment. 

System and production monitoring
A real-time web based monitoring system measures the production of solar electricity and sends an alert to you or your solar services provider if a problem is detected. Having close visibility into the system’s energy production allows the solar service provider to track system performance and spot any anomalies in production level. Many monitoring services and systems include visual displays of a company’s daily/weekly/monthly/annual energy generation along with cost savings, making them valuable green marketing tools, as well.

Preventative maintenance
With any mechanical or electrical system, proper upkeep is crucial to maintain optimal production and a long life. While monitoring allows you to detect when an issue arises, ideally you want to catch potential problems before they impact production. After a long and cold winter, one concern for solar panels is damage caused by snow and ice, so a physical inspection of the array is highly recommended. For example, solar service technicians can identify conduits that may have shifted due to snow buildup, causing ice dams that may in turn damage your panels and potentially result in days of missed production. Through preventative maintenance services, a solar provider will conduct a site visit to complete a thorough inspection of all of the system’s mechanical, electrical and PV components, and make the necessary adjustments or repairs. 

Panel Cleaning – Especially in the Spring
Solar panels that are one or two years old and reside in a clean environment generally do not require cleaning. However, if the solar site experiences significant dust, pollen, or bird droppings, as the spring season is notorious for bringing, the panels may have to be cleaned more often.While a strong rain can wash off light dust or pollen, some types of soiling can stick to the panels and require a thorough cleaning to remove. Additionally, studies have shown that solar panels with a tilt of 30 degrees that show dust or pollen collection can experience an average loss of one percent of their power, and in some extreme cases - up to a five percent loss. And while businesses that have flat roofs may be great for solar installations, panels that have a slight pitch tend to collect more dust, snow, and dirt buildup, making spring service check-ups that include preventative maintenance and panel cleaning even more important.

Installing a solar energy system for your business or organization is a big investment. In order to make sure you’re getting the most out of your array, it’s crucial to schedule regular inspections and maintenance services. As the seasons shift from winter to spring, it’s especially important to recognize the impact weather and the elements can have on your system’s production so you can ensure it captures every last ray of sun when summer hits. 

Steve Bianchi is senior vice president and general manager of customer services at Solect Energy, Hopkinton, Mass. 

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