Solar in Industrial or Rural Settings

Is there really any difference between installing a solar system on a building in urban areas to industrial or rural settings? We at Spinifex Energy believe so, and offer the following three themes that should be considered in industrial or rural areas:

  1. There is potential for Ammonia Oxide to attack solar panels;

  2. Accelerated soiling and degradation are more than likely;

  3. After-market service is imperative – ensure this is included.

Proximity to livestock can cause Ammonium Hydroxide corrosion

In areas where compounded animal excrement can gather and rot causes a pungent ammonium gas.  Whilst this is most prevalent in intensive livestock settings (pigsties, poultry operations, feedlots etc) the gas can also be produced in a homestead stock yards and emit from where trucks may be parked regularly.  When the concentration is strong enough and starts to affect solar panels, the results can be corroded frames and racks, dulling of glass or discoloured glue connections on the sockets.  After a time, this can either cause an increased rate of degradation or lower than normal production from the panels.

It is important to make panel choices based on your specific situations, and luckily there are panel manufacturers that meet specifications for IEC 62716 for ammonia corrosion.  A brand we trust and use regularly is Jinko – a quality panels produced by a company which is currently one of the largest global manufacturers of solar panels.

Accelerated soiling from heavy commercial vehicle traffic

If your property was anything like mine growing up the homestead complex was mainly divided by dirt roads and encountered heavy vehicle traffic.  Sale cattle would be a regular passenger on trucks moving in and out from the property throwing up dust (20 km / hour signs didn’t make much of a difference……).  Similarly in industrial parks high intensity suburbs the sheer volume of trucks and heavy vehicles passing throws up burnt rubber and soot into the air.  A normal amount of soiling will occur every year in any part of the world but it’s no secret that in these environments it will usually occur at an accelerated rate.

Some relevant considerations here:

  • Ensure the fall of your panels is 10 degrees or more to allow for natural self-cleaning when (or IF) it rains. Sometimes tilt-frames may be necessary to reach this ideal panel angle which will be more costly but well worth the expense in the long run. If a few panels becomes severely soiled your whole system could be producing far below its optimum and your payback period or return on investment will likely be adversely affected;

  • Where possible install the panels in an easily accessible or visible location. I know some of you may not think panels are the most aesthetically pleasing installation on a family homestead or new shed (I beg to differ!), but being able to have a quick look at them from time to time to see if there is pooling dirt or dust in any corners is important. If you see significant traces of dirt, grime or bird poo it might be time to get the hose out. If your roof is significantly high making sighting from the ground impossible you may want to put a drone up a few times a year for a sticky beak.

  • There is value in installing a smart meter (where possible) to provide remote monitoring for your system, or maintain a schedule of checking your systems’ output on a regular basis (on the inbuilt inverter monitor). Nothing is going to confirm suspicions of overly soiled panels like the generation figures the inverter is producing. Ask your installer about smart meters and what monitoring platforms your chosen inverter offers.

Ensuring there will be after-market support

Installing a solar system can be a highly rewarding experience producing attractive returns (or savings) for your business, but the capital outlay can be significant.  For this reason it is always good to have the after-market support discussion during the quoting stage to ensure your chosen company can be available to answer further queries or concerns, but more importantly action any repair or maintenance work that may be required.

Hopefully you have chosen good quality equipment which has been installed professionally resulting in a trouble-free solar system for the life of the system.  On occasion however inverters and panel may prove to be faulty requiring a warranty claim and replacement.  It’s the duty of your installer to carry out these works, so make sure this point is discussed prior to making purchasing decisions.

Conclusion

Sometimes choosing a solar system can be a little more complex than just selecting equipment, choosing a roof space and cracking on with an installation.  There are numerous variables associated with each and every site and taking into account the above considerations in the industrial or rural regions is important.  To wrap things up the main message of this post is to encourage you do some reading on various panel and inverter brands prior to contacting a solar installation company.  Next, ensure you have a good rapport with the company you choose to carry out your installation and ensure they have gone through their decision-making process and how they have arrived at their product recommendations.

As always, we are here to help.

Please touch base if you would like to discuss your solar requirements, and all the best for 2019!