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.
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