One of the more unpleasant aspects of our job is in dealing with pest infestations underneath roof mounted solar arrays. The unwelcome guests are usually feral pigeons, although we have also attended the odd infestation of gulls, jackdaws and even squirrels.
Why do pigeons and gulls roost under solar panels?
The majority of solar arrays do not have any problems with pigeons or gulls.
The only reason for the presence of pigeons or gulls is the nearby availability of food. Pigeons and gulls will eat almost anything and if you a neighbour or a local food business provides them with a regular source of food they will find a place to roost. This place will usually be overlooking the food source. Food sources include deliberate feeding, surplus food from feeding of outdoor pets (e.g. rabbits, chickens or ducks), garden bird feeders and exposed food waste.
If you have pigeons nesting underneath your solar panels then they will very quickly create a lot of mess. In most installations the cables and connectors are not correctly secured to the mounting rails, and therefore the connectors will accumulate and become buried in faeces and other detritus from the birds. The rotting matter will find its way into those connectors, causing them to corrode and overheat.
The inverter will often detect the electrical leakage from the bad connections and will shut down in order to reduce the risk of fire. If this happens the inverter will display ‘Riso fault’, ‘Isolation error’ or a similar message on its screen.
The detritus from nesting birds will wash down the roof and block up the gutters and provide a fertile place for vegetation to grow. Their nests contain mites which can enter the home via the loft. Pigeon cooing can be quite noisy, and their movements can often be heard, particularly in converted lofts. In short, these guests are bad news and need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
What about squirrels?
Squirrels can also make their home underneath solar arrays. They make their nest from soft materials which keeps their pups elevated from the roof surface where they will be warm and dry. Unfortunately they are more destructive than birds and will usually cause some damage to the electrical cables of the solar array. This can result in a broken circuit or, more commonly, isolation faults as mentioned above.
What can be done about these infestations?
Early action is essential to minimise the mess and potential damage to your solar array and your home.
The first measure with any pigeon or gull infestation should be to remove the source of their food if possible. If the birds find that their regular source of food has disappeared they may move on.
We can clear the mess and inspect and replace any faulty connections, where necessary removing panels temporarily to facilitate access. We then attach a mesh around the perimeter of the array using clips that do not damage the frames of the solar panels. We may also fit anti-roosting spikes to parts of the roof where appropriate.
Beware companies that fasten mesh to solar panels using self-drilling screws – this will invalidate your solar panel warranty. Also beware firms that just fit the mesh without sorting out the mess and performing any necessary repairs underneath the panels – you’ll end up paying someone else to do the job properly later on.
Once your solar panels have been properly pest-proofed the uninvited guests will soon find a new place to live. Contact us for your quotation today.