Living in a coastal environment like the Mornington Peninsula can be both a blessing and a curse for solar powered homes. There is lovely clean air from refreshing sea breezes, and magical sunsets on the beach. Property on the Peninsula is becoming increasingly sought after, especially following the sea change many inner-city residents are undergoing following COVID-19 and increased workplace flexibility.
However, some negatives arise when your home is situated on the coastline. A trip to the beach inevitably ends up with sand dispersed throughout your car and house, and the higher salt content in the air that is whisked up from the shore increases the rate of corrosion and weathering of your house and possessions. But what does this mean for solar? Are solar panels effected by increased salinity? What if they degrade after only a few years? If you live in the Mornington Peninsula and solar power has been a discussion within your home, continue reading to find out how to keep your solar investment safe from the harsh coastal environment.
What is corrosion and why does saltwater increase it?
The reason that corrosion is a greater problem for residents of coastal areas is due to saltwater. Saltwater is salty because of several dissolved molecules (the salts) which form ions (charged molecules) in the water like sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) known as electrolytes. The electrolytes are the same thing as what is inside sports drinks but at different concentrations. When there are ions in a solution it enables easier travel of electrons within that solution. This is the case within saltwater and is the reason why corrosion occurs faster in coastal environments.
Corrosion is a class of chemical reaction known as redox chemistry. Rusting of iron is a great example of redox chemistry. The iron is losing electrons and oxygen present in water is accepting them forming iron oxide which is the flaky red coloured rust we are familiar with. In this example, the iron has been oxidised and the oxygen has been reduced. Oxidation can occur to many substances including some of the components of solar systems which poses an issue for renewable conscious coastal residents.
Seaspray is typically carried up to about 100m from the ocean or body of saltwater. In areas that are highly storm-prone or experience extremely high winds this may be a little further but if you are over 200m back from the ocean then sea spray is unlikely to be an issue. However, this only accounts for the extremely corrosive environments, in reality, corrosivity is rated as medium-high up to up to 1km of sheltered bays such as the Mornington Peninsula and up to 10km from the surf coast.
The increased salt deposition in coastal regions poses a real problem for homeowners. It is integral that they take extra steps to ensure that their house and possessions are protected from the corrosive environment that living near the ocean creates. This includes their solar systems.
Are there components of my solar system that can rust?
Generally, your solar panels will be safe from rusting. The solar cells themselves are highly corrosion resistant and vacuum-sealed behind protective sheeting so unless the sheeting becomes damaged and elemental components can get inside the panel, they should be fine.
The frame of a solar panel is typically composed of an aluminium alloy, pure aluminium is very corrosion resistant as aluminium oxide, which is the product of the oxidation of aluminium, forms a protective barrier around the aluminium preventing further corrosion. The alloys are less corrosion resistant than the pure metal, however many are treated through anodising which creates the oxide protective coating regardless.
On top of this, the IEC 61701 Photovoltaic (PV) modules – Salt mist corrosion testing standard is a guideline for manufacturers to meet which replicates years of being in highly corrosive coastal environments. Typically, all high-end manufacturers will adhere to this standard, some lower-end solar panels may not, so it is important to check the datasheet for the solar panels that you want to purchase.
The IEC 61701 only relates to the solar panels themselves though, and other metal components such as the racking that holds the panels onto the roof may be less corrosion resistant. Additionally, the wiring may be prone to rust which would need to be replaced if corroded. It is important to check with your solar electrician or your local solar installer to see whether the materials being used will be conducive to the environment you are in. Our team at Erg Energy provides solar installation and advice on the Mornington Peninsula and Bayside. Contact us for advice today.
Additional salty issues
As explained the solar panels themselves will be unlikely to be harmed from living near the coast, especially if they are high quality and produced by a leading manufacturer. However, salt may impact your solar investment in other ways.
Decreased efficiency may plague those who live in coastal suburbs such as Mornington, Rosebud and Rye, as solar panels become clouded with a build-up of salty grime on the top side of the solar panels. This decreases the amount of light that can reach the solar cell. The easiest way this issue can be resolved is by increasing the frequency that you clean your solar panels.
Typically, people may clean their panels quarterly to wash off any dust or debris that may have started to build-up, but as a coastal dweller, you may want to wash them more regularly, to prevent salty residue to ensure the maximum efficiency of the panels. A monthly wash over simply with a hose should be sufficient unless you find noticeable grime which you may need to clean more thoroughly.
When you live by the coast it is important that you book regular solar panel maintenance checks even more so than residents in other areas due to the increased probability that components of your solar system will have corroded and are no longer functioning correctly.
Normally it is recommended that you have a certified renewable energy electrician survey your solar system once every two years. However, if you are living in coastal regions such as the Mornington Peninsula your solar panels and components are at greater risk of degradation. Accordingly, solar panel maintenance should be performed more regularly than those who live inland.
If you are getting checks from a local solar installer on the Peninsula and you are adhering to 24-month checks as a minimum you can be confident that your solar array will be functioning close to peak efficiency. If you feel that your array is particularly at risk, it is best to discuss a suitable plan with your local solar electrician.
Coastal environments provide many challenges not only to humans. The coastal marine environments are touted as one of the harshest environments to live with high salinity, heat, and waves constantly bashing you.
This translates up the shore to our homes where higher atmospheric salt content causes faster corrosion of our homes and assets. Therefore, you need competent and reliable solar professionals. Solar installers that work the Mornington Peninsula have a greater understanding of the materials and equipment required for longevity in a coastal environment. If you are considering installing solar or need maintenance for your existing solar installation, please call 1800 374 786 or contact us for further information.