Kevin Parsons, national operations manager of Globe Pest Solutions, explains how keeping solar panels clean and functional for your customers presents an opportunity for easy revenue.
Although many property owners think solar power systems are a ‘set and forget’, they do need maintenance. They need to be kept clean to maximise power output and maintained annually to ensure they last the designated lifespan.
Pest birds are one of the biggest problems in solar panel maintenance – their droppings and nesting behaviour cause significant issues. With almost 1.25 million Australian properties now having solar power systems installed, there is a significant opportunity for pest control companies.
Why do birds like solar panels?
It’s been suggested that birds are attracted from the air by the vast arrays of solar panels, which perhaps resemble a lake or pond, encouraging birds to land. Once there, the panels themselves form an attractive loafing spot, offering retained heat on top of the panel and a comfortable nesting site away from the sun, underneath. The lip on the edge of the panel also provides a great vantage point for pest birds.
What’s the problem?
Dirt within rainwater and air pollution can coat the panels over time – a 25% reduction in efficiency is not uncommon. Guano (bird droppings) has a bigger impact on solar panels, coating the cells and etching the delicate surface, reducing panel effectiveness.
It’s important to realise that the level of bird dropping coverage is not proportional to the drop in power output – even a small amount of bird droppings can have a big impact. The PV cells within the panel are connected in a series string, meaning that even partial covering of one cell on a panel by guano will reduce the power output, potentially by up to 50%. When a cell is fully covered it can use energy created by the rest of the cells and the power can drop to zero, severely impacting the panel’s short-term output.
Additionally, damage caused by the ammonia in guano is a longer-term issue that must be managed to ensure that the panels are working long after the payback period. Ammonia is extremely aggressive and has been shown to corrode both the panel and the alloy frame, and whilst the majority of panels are supplied with a guarantee, most only have a 10-year corrosion warranty.
If birds set up home around solar panels, a large amount of nesting materials and bird droppings can accumulate on, around and under the panels. Not only can this be very unsightly but it can also damage the expensive and sensitive solar panels, not forgetting the well-proven number of diseases that can be transmitted to man, not only from the droppings but also from the birds themselves.
How to bird proof solar panels
Solar panel frames can be easily protected. Birds can be deterred using the latest, unique product to join the AviClip range from Globe Pest Solutions and Network Bird, designed to make proofing solar panels quick and simple. The new solar AviClips have been designed specifically with solar panels in mind, and can be glued into place so there’s no need to drill frames. They can also be used with Avipoint spike systems or alternatively with Avishock electric bird deterrent systems for an ultra-discreet approach.
Preventing birds from gaining access underneath a solar panel is an important aspect of this type of work. Pest birds will nest under the solar array, causing damage to wiring, panels and roofing, and generate a significant amount of mess, all resulting in costly repairs and clean up. Globe Pest Solutions has a number of kits that prevent bird access, that are easy to install and very cost effective.
Making the most of solar panel bird proofing opportunities
- Speak to your local solar panel installation companies to see if they have sites where they have already identified bird problems
- Look out for large commercial sites as well as solar farms for bigger proofing opportunities.
- The top lip and frame of panels can be proofed with AviClips, allowing simple installation of Avipoint or Avishock
- Install solar skirts and exclusion kits to prevent birds from accessing the area under the panels.
For many pest managers this represents a new and growing problem, one that will start to crop up on a more regular basis. Fortunately it is simple to solve. Of course you can be proactive in spotting such opportunities each time to carry out an inspection. The optimisation of energy output and increasing the lifespan of the panels make the justification for bird proofing the panels an obvious consideration and easily justifiable through a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Globe Pest Solutions have many other suggestions for ways to increase your revenue through bird proofing, particularly in spotting opportunities for new and lucrative sales. Get in touch with your local Globe client manager for more advice and information on available products and techniques.
Kevin Parsons, National Operations Manager, Globe Pest Solutions and Mark Wenman, Network Bird Management