28th August 2018

BeBa Energy UK recently cleaned and maintained the National Farmers’ Union’s roof-mounted solar panels at their headquarters in Stoneleigh.

As an Approved Supplier for the NFU Farm Energy Service, we carried out a deep clean of the panels, checked the electrical safety of the installation, and mapped the improvement on graphs showing the ‘before and after’ performance of the system.

Before our maintenance check, 50% of the installation’s inverters were underperforming, which we estimate resulted in the NFU’s income from the panels being reduced by 18% per year. Now that we’ve maintained and cleaned the system, output levels have risen, equating to £2,600+ additional income over the course of the next 12 months.

Dr. Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU’s chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change, confirmed that peak output had increased following our visit and that the inverters were now producing a similar output, adding: “It highlights the fact that an expert monitoring eye can pick up something that the system owner would not notice. W hile solar is genuinely low maintenance, it should not be seen as no maintenance. A little money spent on periodic cleaning, safety checks and, if possible, performance monitoring is likely to pay for itself very quickly through improved returns.”

Keeping panels clean and making sure that everything is still working as it is supposed to work really can make a big difference to the bottom line of solar PV systems. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment to secure your return, and you can see how just a small reduction in output can have a significant impact on your expected income.

Our own Stephen Palmer noted,

“The system on the roof of the conference centre at Stoneleigh had a number of minor electrical issues, including a burnt out component that could have caused a major fire in a more risky area like a dry and dusty grain store. That one failed component meant that ten percent of the array wasn’t operating at all, while the rest of the system was operating at seven to eight percent below its expected output because of the dust and grime on the panels.”

Cleaning solar panels is also not something to ignore. Sloping roofs may be able to rely upon rain washing for a year or two, but sooner or later they will also require a thorough clean – and this is not a job for your local window cleaner, since access and working at height may pose safety risks, not to mention having water and direct current electricity in close proximity.

As Dr. Scurlock says:

“These kinds of services are best tackled by specialist contractors such as BeBa Energy UK, who can carry out remote, real-time monitoring to detect any drop-off in performance immediately, as well as checking for electrical safety and damage. It only costs a few hundred pounds to have a medium-sized agricultural rooftop system cleaned, inspected and checked, with the cost easily recouped by avoiding the decline in output as dirt and faults accumulate over the years.”

BeBa Energy don’t just tackle the cleaning and maintenance of systems we installed; our nationwide maintenance services are available to anyone, regardless of who installed your system in the first place. Plenty of solar providers have gone out of business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access the service you need to keep your system up and running safely and effectively.

Until the end of June 2016, NFU members with 30kw or larger systems can request a free health check from us. We’ll report on the condition of your system and discuss any further work needed to make the installation more profitable.

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