Over half a million people in the UK are now using solar photovoltaic panels* (PV) to generate electricity from their roofs. Solar panels are also being used more on industrial and commercial buildings (not just large grid-connected solar PV farms) as ‘renewables’ become more efficient, sleeker, economical and easier to run.
Yet the increase in renewable technologies like solar panels has given some nesting birds, in particular adaptable species like pigeons, new opportunities to nest. The dark photovoltaic panels attract the light, which radiates heat and gives the pigeons warmth. The solar panel itself also offers protection from the elements so is an ideal place to safely roost. As the panels tend to be located at a reasonable height, they also provide some protection from predators such as cats.
Why are nesting birds under solar panels a problem?
Birds such as pigeons and gulls nesting under and around solar panels can easily damage the cabling/wiring and the photovoltaic panels themselves. Bird debris such as feathers, droppings and nesting material will reduce the effectiveness of the panels. A single pigeon can produce approximately 15kg of fouling in a single year, which if deposited on the solar panels will quickly reduce their output efficiency. Bird faeces are also particularly corrosive and can result in damage to roofing as well as solar panels. Gulls and pigeons are known carriers of pathogens that can lead to disease such as Salmonellosis, Ornithosis and Fowl Pest, as well as being hosts to ticks and bird mites.
Protecting your solar panels
Bird proofing your solar panels against the desire of pigeons to find a cosy nesting site is essential to help reduce the potential maintenance costs of cleaning and repairing any damage caused by fouling and detritus.
The most effective way to pigeon proof solar panels is to install meshing**. The mesh is installed all around the edging of the photovoltaic panels, which then prevents access beneath the units. This protects the wiring, equipment and roof from being damaged by nesting birds. The mesh system uses specially designed clips that will enable access under the panels for equipment maintenance, yet prevent pigeons accessing the space.
It is worth noting that solar panel proofing is harmless to the birds, it simply prevents access and encourages them to find alternative nesting sites.
** All works are subject to a survey and current legislation in the case of nesting birds.