Protect your solar from sky rats and other wild disasters
I remember the days of installing solar panels on the roof of a gas station and the distinct feeling that we were being watched. Not the CCTV installed to catch petrol thieves, not the nosy neighbor or the bored pensioner. It was dozens of sharp little eyes watching from every angle, patiently waiting for us to leave so they could move into the new house made of solar panels we had just built for them.
Although the air conditioning unit already had bird netting, the bean counters did not see the benefit of protecting the solar panels from birds. I only wish that these economic geniuses didn’t just pay, but had to do the manual labor needed to clean up bird droppings and dead pigeons.
It’s a horrible task that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Except a retired LNP government minister.
Warning! Pigeon shit is dangerous.
I recently spoke with the experienced Brisbane-based solar repair expert and Julian Saxby, the versatile top. He told this cautionary tale:
“Be very careful and always wear a mask. I ended up with two different bacterial infections in my lungs after destroying a system very similar to this – it also took months to treat. The main one was psittacosis, and somewhere in the mix I caught hyperfluid flu and moraxella catarrhalis.
“I spent most nights struggling to breathe. I used to go up to the back of the house and cough non-stop for a good hour just to clear myself out a bit. These days, I can comfortably take down 27 panels and install 20 on a replacement system by myself in a day – but thanks to the pigeons I had trouble climbing up and down the ladder with just one small 190W panel for a good moment.
Preventing a poop show: How to protect your solar panels from pigeons
There are several approaches to preventing bird damage:
- machines that make noise,
- rotating mirrors,
- plastic owls,
- pretend hawks on a string
…none of which seem to be effective in my experience. The best option is to physically exclude them from the nesting below the table.
I saw a new roof installed on a heritage listed stone barn, with curved iron sheets as the ridge. The building had always been infested with pigeons, now banned from entering. The shiny new iron and 35º pitch meant they could land but had no grip on the roof. The wind knocked them down, but they came back the next minute.
The fascinating The thing is, despite the difficulty, with bloody determination, they soon created a platform for themselves…shitty.
After months of pigeon teamwork, a solid platform of guano was glued to the roof which the pigeons found quite simple. There’s a reason they’re called racing pigeons; they are incredibly dedicated to where they live. Popular or not, I believe this particular problem was only solved by hiring shooters.
The peaceful and reliable way to protect your sunglasses from birds.
If you know you want to protect your solar array from birds when you are at the quote stage, ask your installer to add bird protection from the start. It is easier to add it as your solar panels are installed.
A few different commercial products are available in Australia using both plastic and metal, molded shapes and mesh, and secured with clips, hooks or fasteners.
Clenergy even has a video of them (on the weirdest rooftop ever):
The PVC Pipe Solution
Attach the trellis directly to the frame
I have seen installations where the mesh was screwed or riveted directly to the panel frames. Some installers will wince or throw their hands up in the air, but if you consider a photovoltaic panel to be essentially an aluminum framed window, attaching things to it isn’t rocket science, as long as you avoid glass and wiring. sure.
A recent problem is that panel manufacturers are looking to cut costs, many solar panels no longer have a flange under the short side of the panel. Without this bottom edge to clip or hang commercial designs on, you have no choice but to carefully drill the frame for the fixings to install a bird guard. At least you know that without a flange to put clips on, there’s also no clipped wiring on the underside. A mixed blessing for installers, I assure you.
Also, you should check with the panel manufacturer that their warranty is correct with drilling holes in the frame.
Here’s another fact, horrifying to some: there are hundreds of thousands of solar panels in Australia secured to the roof with stainless steel tek screws driven through the frames. Sometimes the elegant solutions are simply simple and effective.
Bird protection has other benefits
A properly fitted mesh can prevent leaf litter and tree debris from accumulating under your solar panel, which is a major fire hazard, especially for low-slope roofs.
With the same roof damage and water leak problems that bird waste can create.
It also discourages rats chewing on the wiring and opossums, which are just a noisy pain in the back.
And last but not least, keep corelles and galahs remote could prevent the wiring from being chewed up, which avoids blowing up your inverter with a catastrophic short to ground.
Many solar installers are not mesh mounting experts
If your solar installer is hesitant to install a trellis on your grid, I would hire a gutter protection company. Ask them to liaise about electrical safety, but leave the mesh to people who have the tools and are used to adjusting it cleanly without creating leaks.
Do you need to worry about bird protection?
Most solar installations do not require bird screens. Provided the wiring is properly restrained and stays in place, there’s little chance they’ll ever have a buildup of leaves or wildlife.
If you did not have a bird problem before installing your solar power system, you are unlikely to need bird control devices. That said, if you notice pigeons cooing and flapping wings, it’s really best to rule them out as soon as possible. Removing solar panels just to clean underneath is much more expensive.
The birds have already made a mess, how can I fix it?
Carefully is the answer. Mains wiring can have hundreds of DC volts available if there is the slightest amount of sunlight. As many systems have plastic strain reliefs that become brittle with age, it is not uncommon for wiring to sag. No one should poke or snag this with metal tools.
Do. Not. Use. A. Pressure. Washing machine.
Unless you’re exceptionally good at it, it’s all too easy to inject water into panel edges or plugs and cause ground faults.
As an example, I had to clean under a 100kW array and 300 panels on a low-pitched roof terrace. Birds weren’t a problem, but an gum tree had filled the roof with dead leaves and sticks. There was decent clearance under the frame, but the network was 10 meters deep in places with no service gaps.
I made a tool using a sturdy plastic scraper attached to a fiberglass rod that could be screwed together to create a long extension handle (a drain cleaning setup). This meant that we could physically push the matted and woven sticks under the panels, but this had to be done regularly to avoid accumulating a large volume of material that could not be expelled.
A garden hose or blower is handy in many cases, but unnecessary in this situation, and I didn’t have a fire hose. The best way to finish the job was with a bucket of water. Twenty liters in a second, thrown down a channel in the roof, would move a lot more dirt than 20 liters per minute gushing out of the pipe…but that was still tedious on a large roof.
Maintenance requirements vary
Most systems with enough rain to keep them clean should be checked every 5 years. However, there are systems that need professional cleaning Every few months because bird fouling is enough to have a serious impact on yield.
So, if your residential roof is attractive to bird pests, a modest investment in bird protection will increase your energy efficiency and lower your cleanup costs.
If you have a professional solar system, your return on investment is often guaranteed by the solar dealer. Cleaning fees can create arguments, and no one likes to argue about pigeon poop. So keep an eye on the sky and ideally agree your responsibilities for bird protection prevention and maintenance before accepting quotes.