Do You Need to Wash Your Rooftop Solar Panels?


It is a question gnawing at people who live and toil beneath rooftop solar panels: To wash or not to wash away accumulating dust?

The answer is don’t bother hiring a panel washer to let in the sunshine, according a study by a team of engineers at the University of California San Diego. You are highly unlikely to earn your money back in electricity.

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“The vast majority of solar-energy systems certainly get some dirt, but it has a fairly low impact on how much energy they produce,” said Jan Kleissl, the study’s principal investigator and an aerospace engineering professor at UC San Diego

The study looked at output from solar panels on homes and bigger buildings across California that report electricity output in return for rebate incentives from state government. Those data from 2010 were cross cataloged with rainfall events, assuming that a strong rain would clean a panel fairly thoroughly.

The analysis included California’s summer drought period, when rain can be scant for five months.

It found panels that had not been rained on or cleaned for 145 days lost little more than 7 percent of their efficiency. A mid-summer cleaning, under those dusty circumstances, might generate an extra $20 of power.

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