What to do when pigeons are nesting under your solar panels

Francisco CastroApril 22, 2019 43270 1

What Happens if Pigeons are Nesting Under Your Panels?

Spring’s in the air and Alex has a problem. 

“Pigeons are having a wonderful time nesting under my panels,” he wrote on a message board for solar power system questions.

“Hey guys what did you use for bid pest control?,” he asked

It’s a common problem.

While a passing bird or two won’t damage your photovoltaic (PV) system in the long-run, pigeons nesting under solar panels can and will.

You make a big investment when you install solar panels and you should protect that investment. 

Pigeons often use rooftops, gutters, roof overhangs, and even window trims to build nests. And they’re social birds, which means that they actually like to live together. And who wants to be woken up at the crack of dawn by cooing and scratching noises? 

Solar panels don’t go literally on top of the roof, but on top of railing that sits on your roof, providing a space between the modules and the actual roof. Pigeons like to place their nests there as it offers a nice shady area and protects them from the weather and predators.

The pigeons may also be sitting or walking around on the panels.

While experts say the birds are not interested in foraging on solar panels or eating the wires, their poop is a concern factor. And boy, is that a problem with birds. Remember that anything that obstructs the panel from facing the sun directly may affect is energy efficiency. If the problem is serious (as in too many birds and too many droppings) it can render a whole solar array useless.

Cleaning the panels from all that bird s**t is also a consideration. Bird droppings are also acidic, which can compromise the aluminum frame of the solar panels, leading to an increased rate of corrosion. 

The accumulation of nest materials and bird droppings may create hotspots leading to subsequent failures of cells within the panels.

When birds build nests under solar panels, that may also back up water when it rains, allowing water to pool or diverting it to sensitive areas.

Even worse, when birds build nests under solar panels, they attract other pests, such as squirrels and rodents. And they can chew through a solar panel’s electrical wiring, which can provoke short circuits and, in extreme situations, fires. 

Also, pigeon feces carry a number of parasites and diseases. As it breaks down, it becomes airborne and part of the air around your house. 

What’s the solution?

There are a variety of ways to solve the problem.

1. Bird screens: To seal up the area under the solar panels, you can install a wire mesh that clips directly to the solar panels and goes completely around the entire array. Or for a less expensive version, plastic bird netting will pretty much do the same thing, but may not weather the elements as well. 

You may do this when you install the solar panels or if you notice a growing number of birds hanging around them. 

First, the area must be cleaned, getting rid of the debris, nest material and droppings before installing the mesh, which makes it difficult for birds to nest beneath the panels. If there is a large accumulation of this matter, it’s probably best to contact a professional company that can sanitize the area under the solar panels. 

Be careful not to glue or screw anything into the solar panel framework or mountain structure, as this can damage them or void your warranty on those parts. 

Also, don’t put screens over the panels themselves, as this can damage them and block the sun from getting in fully. 

2. Spikes: they may not be the most humane, but spikes along the edges of the panels do keep the birds from staying long enough to make a nest.

3. Plastic birds of prey: think of them as scarecrows for your solar panels. It may sound outdated, but a fake owl with a head that swivels in the wind can be a good guard for solar panels. If you want to go fancy, you may spruce up for an automated bird of prey.

Also, remember to keep your yard and garden clean. Birds usually stick around areas where you can find something to eat. Keep your trash cans covered and make sure there are no food sources around your home.

And sometimes it’s not the birds you need to look out for. Bees and wasps look for cool spots to build their nests and hives too. But they tend to get their creations tangled up in all of the wires (as pictured below). Wasps are a lot more aggressive than birds when you disturb their home so be careful when examining them. It’s a lot harder to try and keep them away but if they do become a nuisance, best to call a professional for hive removal. 

If you encounter any of these problems, first and foremost, be careful. If you don't feel you can get rid of the nuisance on your own, hire a professional to handle it. Just be cognizant that anything that affects your solar panel efficiency, affects your wallet in the end.

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