Are Dirty Solar Panels a Big Problem?


Solar’s got a few dark secrets: Sometimes toxic materials are used in panels and sometimes chemicals get dumped in the manufacturing process. But what’s the real dirty secret? According to OCS Energy, a startup based in Petaluma, Calif., it’s actually, well, dirt — and tree sap, bugs, moss or anything that can grime up the panel and dampen its energy output.

OCS Energy’s answer is an automated cleaning system, dubbed SolarWash, that attaches to the array of panels and can wash the system (Update: targeting 100kw installations or larger) on a weekly basis. This morning the company is announcing its system, which it says is “the first commercially available automated photovoltaic panel cleaning system.” It uses nozzles to spray down one side and a washing process that is controlled by a microprocessor.

OCS says if the solar installation is experiencing a loss of energy of 5 percent or more due to dirt, then the system can pay back within 3 to 5 years. (Update: The company’s CEO Richard O’Connell tells us that the system costs $0.30 per watt DC to install, and that the company is in the process of bringing those costs down.) That energy loss estimate is actually a pretty conservative claim from a solar panel maintenance company. Many of the service-oriented companies in the solar panel maintenance market say dirt and grim can reduce a panel’s energy output by 15 to 25 percent.

But OCS says its automated solution is better than service-oriented solutions, because having employees manually wash solar systems is a safety hazard. The washing system seems pretty straight forward (see video below), but our big question is: Will major commercial solar installers see a need for this?


Dirk Johnson

As the United States enters into this new decade of solar technology, the developments that will increase the efficiency of solar panels will blow your mind.

The latest development : Solar panel cleaning systems. Their are many different competitors out there that have their own opinion about what constitutes a great solar panel cleaning system. How about
(1). Bang for your buck – Return on investment in less than one year
(2). Simplicity – Easy install that takes less than one hour & can be packaged with at your solar panels point of sale.
(3). Efficiency – Minimal use of water, only what is necessary to keep those solar panels sparkling clean.
(4). Affordable – Get your kit installed today with as little as $100 down.
(5). Options – Simple kits or Deluxe kits, whatever fits your budget.
(6). Customer service – Company representatives are personable with excellent attention to detail. Every customer is relieved with satisfaction!

Simple Solar Cleaning Systems provides a simple solution for a dirty problem. The traits listed above are what we all are about. The only way to clean solar panels is through an automated device that does calculated cleanings, ensuring that your solar panels are putting out their maximum output! Our patented design allows for easy install and efficient cleanings. I will gladly field any more questions at my email address.

Dirk Johnson

OK, thats pretty cool right there. That has to be really, really expensive however. I heard of a company that does these for really cheap. There getting big in california.

C.A. White

Even if it is cloudy you can make energy from the sun but you can’t harness the wind if its not blowing. My money is on solar power.

C.A. White

KlearvieW Systems will take you up on that task. Our system physically scrubs the solar panel or window surface and squeegees it perfectly dry every time.

KlearvieW is completely “GREEN” self sustaining water powered solar panel, window and skylight cleaning system that utilizes captured rain water as its power source.

Please visit our website at http://www.klearviewsystems to see the next generation solar panel, window and skylight cleaning system in action.

Let’s take for example 1,000 solar panels you must clean once per week, every week of the year. Your wages and travel costs not to mention your overhead quickly makes manual cleaning become unfeasible.

If Solar Maids truly is the largest and fastest growing solar panel and maintenance company in the world you might want to consider discussion with KlearvieW.

Imagine the possibilities Solar Maid has the exclusive right to install and maintain a system that literally is controlled via low voltage that can be monitored to allow a real time point of purchase type application. No matter if it is night or day, each and every time the system is used it is recorded for payment directly to Solar Maids.

If interested please visit

Greenguy 25

Auto-sprayers, coatings and protective films are all great ideas, but nothing is ever going to replace good old hand washing.

I publicly invite any of these product manufacturers to come out and test their products against our wet/dry method, in both quality and cost.


solar maid is the largest and fastest growing solar panel cleaning and maintenance company in the world.

Q. Reynolds

Cleaning is certainly not the first thing on people’s mind when it comes to solar panels but it should be taken seriously. Anything exposed to the elements of nature will over time become dirty and in the case of solar panels where the external surface is dependent on sunlight, ensuring they are clean will have an impact on your energy output and ultimately savings on your electricity bill.

C.A. White

The answer is KlearvieW Systems a patented hydro mechanical solar panel cleaning system that actually will clean all the dirt and grime from the panel in lieu of wasting excessive amounts of water with a stationary sprinkler system.

From the beginning KlearvieW Systems has always been a green company. KlearvieW Systems has targeted solar panels as being a key component of the green future. KlearvieW is the perfect fit for the solar panel industry.

Solar panel utilization / implementation are not without challenges. As a solar panel collects dust, leaves and bird droppings they become dramatically less efficient.

The KlearvieW system is adaptable to numerous different applications, with quick and easy change of brushes and squeegee blades to perfectly fit the end-users needs.

Utilizing the Green self sustaining system KlearvieW Systems uses the captured rain water that sheets off of the solar panel surface into a gutter system conveying the captured rain water into a storage tank. Inside of the storage tank is a simple line pump powered directly from the solar panels themselves. KlearvieW takes this one step further by recycling; utilizing the initial captured rain water as the power source to drive the mechanism. Once expelled from the unit we capture the water and recycle so it can be used again to drive the mechanism. It is safe to say, you can’t get any greener than that!

i. Solar panels will sustain maximum efficiency with the KlearvieW System in place.

ii. Return on investment will take place within the first year the KlearvieW System is installed and placed into operation on a solar panel array.


Don’t you think that would decrease the efficiency of solar panel?

Vern Green

It makes perfect sense, even though solar panel cleanliness isn’t something I ever thought about. I wonder why a solar power system couldn’t be covered with a clear plexiglass material that would let macimum light through while protecting the panels themselves. That way someone could just “wash the windows” to recover their lost generation potential. In the right situation, something like a windshield wiper setup could probably do it automatically.

Alex Haislip

Funny. No doubt one of many companies we’ll see addressing the “support” sector of solar deployments. I wonder why you couldn’t just spray them with a teflon-like anti-sicking substance at the time they’re made.

Jerome Dickson

Yes surface applications integrate the production line or in the field maintenance schedules. PURETi Clearâ„¢ creates a sustainable, and proactive self-cleaning surface that continuously breaks down grime and organic film buildup.PURETi Clear air dries to form durable, ultra-thin and invisible film that oxidizes organic micro particles when irradiated by UV light. PURETi Clear was specially developed for glass windows, solar panels, LED screens and polycarbonate surfaces.
Formulated to create a photocatalytic surface which continuously oxidizes organic micro particles at the molecular level.
â–  It creates a hydrophilic surface that causes water to sheet away.â–  Reduces cleaning maintenance costs by up to 50%, water, energy, chemicals, and labor expended in cleaning.
â–  Treated surfaces need to be cleaned half as often, and are twice as easy to clean.

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