One of the less often spoken about but significant advantages of solar energy generation is that the panels are relatively low maintenance. “Low maintenance,” however, does not mean “no maintenance.” Science Daily last week reported on work at Sandia National Laboratories aimed at reducing corrosion on electronic elements and connections in the devices.
The story at Science Daily says that corrosion can reduce the efficiency of the panels. In a way it is unfortunate that the panel doesn’t shut down at the slightest sign of corrosion. An inefficient but operational solar panel can limp on indefinitely, producing well below its potential. The story also points out that the sensitive parts of the panels are exposed to the elements, which makes problems more likely.
The research concluded that there is a connection between corrosion and arc faults in electric connections. Nanocomposite films that could increase reliability – “dramatically,” in the words of the writer – were developed in the research
Sandia, the story says is a member of the Durable Module Materials National Lab Consortium (DuraMat). The consortium, which includes government and industry members, will receive about $30 million in funding during the next five years from the Department of Energy’s (DoE) SunShot Initiative to further efforts to develop materials that will increase reliability and lower cost for solar photo voltaics.
While solar arrays are reliable, they do require common sense maintenance, according to MachineDesign:
Solar arrays are designed to be durable and require minimal maintenance. Many installers recommend annual inspections to check the panels and system performance, and some offer lifetime warranties for the system. Plus, if you lease the panels and system, maintenance is typically provided by the leasing company. Keep in mind, panels with tracking subsystems may require additional maintenance and care.
Rooftop installations are more sensitive than ground-mounted solar arrays. In such installations, perhaps the most important thing to think about is the roof upon which the panels sit. Experts say that care must be taken to ensure that the panels are too heavy. Another common sense step is to make sure that the roof is in good shape before the installation begins. Justin Lonson, the owner of San Diego-based RC Energy Solutions, wrote at Clean Technica that a professional inspection be should be conducted before installation begins.
A related issue is the need to ensure that they pose no danger to firefighters or interfere with the job that they are doing. There are three issues: The possibility that solar panels physically impede firefighter movement or access, that firefighters can receive shocks (live solar panels, water and human beings can create dangerous situations) and that they potentially interfere with smoke venting. Money takes a look at steps being undertaken to address these issues.