Solar panel maintenance – maximising your system’s production

Solar panel maintenance
David Lewis

For any business investing in Solar PV there is an understandable focus on maximising ROI and maintaining system production. System uptime and availability is therefore a key objective of Infinity Energy and by offering regular solar panel maintenance we can help you to get at least 25 years out of your investment.

As solar panels have no moving parts they are often thought to be maintenance-free, however to ensure seamless production of energy at maximum capacity preventative measures should be taken. Systems that are regularly maintained are in fact proven to run up to 30% more efficiently. Solar panel maintenance and checks are therefore recommended once a year, along with cleaning at least bi-annually and ideally around spring time when the rainy season has passed.

Solar Clouding and Vegetation Management

‘Solar Clouding’, which is a term used for dirty panels, can negatively affect output by as much as 10-15%. Solar panel cleaning is required to remove the film that develops over time and hinders electricity generation. Any trees or plants that have grown around the panels, and are potentially blocking any light, should also be trimmed. Vegetation management is important and can cause problems with trackers, array wiring and shading which will all impact on production.

Generation Meter Checks

If you are connected to the grid then a member of staff should be taking and submitting readings from the generation meter at regular intervals, which is usually around once a quarter. The generation meter is what your feed in tariff payments are based on, so it is important to check that it is working properly.

Solar Inverter Inspection

Inverters that are offline can have a dramatic negative impact on the ROI of a PV system. Perhaps even more important than inverter failure is how quickly it can be placed back into service. Inverters should therefore be regularly checked to ensure they are working and that energy generation is consistent with the array size. Each ‘string’ of solar panels that connect to the inverters should be tested to make sure that the voltage corresponds to the number of panels on the string. If a whole string were to go down, then a large chunk of valuable electricity would be taken out of the array.

Failure Response

Whilst there is no reason to believe that fire risks associated with PV systems are any greater than those associated with other electrical equipment, failure response is just as important. The electric shock caused from a DC supply affects the body differently and will continually contract the affected muscles, making it much more difficult to break contact with the live components than in a normal AC supply. It is therefore very important to run checks on the system’s failure response. In the event of failure of the AC supply to the building, which may be due to a power cut or a fire, the inverters are designed to shut down automatically. All isolators, DC and AC, should be checked to ensure that they function correctly in an emergency.

Thermal Inspection of Panels

In addition to a visual inspection, a detailed thermal inspection should be carried out with a handheld device or via a drone. This negates the need to test every single panel manually. Here the thermal imaging camera locates hotspots, faulty cells, PID and blown string diodes which won’t be visible to the naked eye and can identify a developing problem. Video coverage can then be reviewed and individual panels identified as problematic.

Wiring, Cabling and In-depth Panel Review

If you are concerned that the wiring of your array was put in unprofessionally, or are experiencing frequent tripping of the solar circuits, then an in-depth review of the wiring and cabling should be carried out. Equally, if a thermal inspection of the solar PV panels highlights some unknown issues, then it may be necessary to conduct a lengthy individual panel review to uncover the exact problem.

Infinity Energy offer a variety of comprehensive Solar maintenance packages. Contact us to find out more about the type of Solar Audit along with detailed report that we can provide for your business.

Get more from your system with solar battery storage

Finally, if you are looking for ways to make the most of your commercial solar panels, then perhaps you should consider solar battery storage. Battery storage is ideal for those regions that suffer from electricity blackouts, but also means that you will benefit from greater energy independence, storing the excess energy generated by day for use at night.