The Price of Protection – Unintended Consequences

By July 2, 2019 No Comments

The Roof of All Evil: Squirrels and Pigeons Sanctuaries – Pt. 1 

Every Rooftop Solar Array is a Nature Preserve

Chew on this statistic: The solar industry estimates 1.3 million solar installations across the United States, with a cumulative capacity of over 40 gigawatts. That’s tens of thousands of acres of attractive sanctuary, each household panel array representing a nature preserve for furry and feathered creatures looking for something to nest in and gnaw upon.

These pest preserves are particularly prevalent in the Northeast U.S. (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Long Island, parts of New England), in Northern California and many other suburban areas where home construction has integrated with forested land. In other parts of the country, like the Southwest, roof rats are equally prevalent and pesky.

You wanted that lush green view of the woods? Well, here come the squirrels!

These nuisance nut-hoarders love to gnaw on solar wiring. They can strip electrical insulation down to the wire and short-circuit modules and inverters with the incessant chewing that their ever-growing teeth require.

Your rooftop solar panels are a natural landing pad for pigeons, yet another category of pest, and not a clean one either. These birds prefer to nest and breed underneath solar panels. In a relatively short period of time, a small flock can settle in under an unprotected array and fill the gutters and despoil the roof area around and underneath the modules with droppings, feathers, nesting materials and even dead birds.

The health hazards caused by the presence of pigeons on rooftops are clear and substantial. Keeping these and other birds away from under solar systems is critical to the safety and longevity of the system as well as the health of the homeowners.

These are natural forces and deeply-ingrained animal instincts at work. Squirrels will always be seeking shelter and snacks (they don’t discriminate when it comes to electrical wiring), and pigeons will always seek to hide from hawks and owls.

With this in mind, it only takes one call from a homeowner to the Solar Contractor or to the Solar Finance Customer Service Dept. requesting solutions to, or repairs caused by, critter damage for lessors to realize how vulnerable the expensive equipment is to these forces of nature and how expensive these repairs can be. It’s not in construction and finance profit margins to be able to throw dollars at these pest problems.

Given that lease agreements contractually require the lessor to maintain and warranty their fleet of residential systems for 20 years, effective preventive measures against critter damage could soon become a default addition to every solar installation plan. No one knows what 20 year solar will look like – but we’ve seen what two-year solar looks like after an animal or bird infestation, and it’s a serious problem. When comparing the ounce of prevention against the costly pound of cure, it seems like a clear choice.

The Price of Protection
We’ve seen solar construction crews install “bird barrier” made from galvanized wire mesh that is clipped or wire-tied around residential systems where environmental concerns like critter damage compelled the homeowner to request some kind of protection. As an after-market accessory, it wasn’t permanent, it wasn’t particularly attractive nor was it cheap to install, but it did the job.

We have also seen firsthand the disgusting and unholy mess created in just 18 months by pigeons nesting underneath residential solar. We would wager that any solar contractor who has had to pay their crews to either clean up that mess or replace micro-inverters, re-run wiring or replace panels damaged by squirrels will be wondering the obvious: why couldn’t we have prevented this?

The Solution

SolaTrim has designed and produced a new pest abatement barrier made exclusively to keep squirrels, pigeons and debris from intruding underneath rooftop solar panels.

Instead of wire mesh, we have produced a patented, black-coated, solid but lightweight aluminum barrier equipped with a commercial-grade adhesive tape that attaches permanently to solar module frames while also being sturdy enough to prevent any critters from defeating the barrier. No longer do installers have to work with clips, wires or screws to attach critter guards to solar arrays. With SolaTrim® panel protection, installers just peel and stick.

SolaTrim solar panel protection is an aesthetic, cost-effective and long-term solution – in any climate – to the expensive and threatening problem of pests under rooftop solar systems.