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Salt and Corrosion, how do they affect solar panels?

If you live in a coastal area, you’d be familiar with salty air that is all too common with the climate. While these conditions are great to live in, they aren’t as ideal for electronic and mechanical components. You may be wondering, how does the salty air and mist affect your solar panels and other components of your solar energy system? Is there a way to mitigate the effects of the salty air and mist on your solar energy system?

How does salt water and air affect solar panels?

Saltwater and air affect your solar panels in different ways. While some effects work their way in the long term. Some might affect your system in the short term. Some cause loss of performance or efficiency, and others can cause damage to various components and lead to system failure.

Saltwater spray and mist

We will have to drill into your roof as part of the installation process. Although to prevent any leaks coming through your roof, flashSalty water splashed on solar panels by mist or wind can affect the production and efficiency of solar energy systems. Researchers in Indonesia conducted experiments to see the effects of saltwater and mist on solar panels. They doused solar panels with salt water for three days and found a significant drop in performance and efficiency between those installed in normal conditions. They noted differences of 1.3778 Watts in performance and 0.948% inefficiency. 

The reasoning for these performance and efficiency drops was the accumulation of salt crystals on the surface of the solar panels. These crystals would shade the solar panels partially and fully. Similar to how trees can affect the performance of solar panels through shading. It is also worth noting that saltwater is an ideal environment for algae growth. While algae won’t damage your solar panels, they can shade your solar panels and block incoming sunlight.

Salt Corrosion

Corrosion is one of the main concerns of salty environments. Salt corrosion affects all metals except gold. Rust develops over time when metals are exposed to water or humid air. Although salt corrosion accelerates the corrosion process, salt makes the water slightly acidic. This causes the corrosion or rust to build up faster compared to normal water exposure. The risk of this salt corrosion is in any metal components of your solar energy system exposed to salty air. This can be found on the racking mounts of your solar panels, and the wiring of your solar energy system. 

You may even find corrosion building up on your solar panels. While solar panels themselves are built to be watertight and are vacuum-sealed, there is still the risk of damage. When aluminum oxidizes, it ends up creating a protective film that inhibits further corrosion. Although salt corrosion can speed up the abrasion on the protective layer and move deeper inside the metal. Solar panels made of aluminum alloys are much more at risk compared to pure aluminum. While the corrosion mainly affects the frame of your solar panels, this can be an issue if there is a crack in your solar panel. 

Galvanic Corrosion

Saltwater corrosion isn’t the only form of corrosion that can affect your solar energy system. Galvanic corrosion happens when two different types of metals are in contact with each other and are exposed to saltwater conditions. This is a much more damaging form of corrosion as one metal becomes much weaker due to the transfer of electrons from one metal to the other. Compared to the two same metals exposed to saltwater conditions, the one with galvanic corrosion will be worse for wear. Although systems installed in salty conditions avoid using different metals to prevent galvanic corrosion.

How to mitigate the effects of salt and corrosion

While it is impossible to avoid salt and corrosion, there are steps you can take to mitigate their effects on your solar energy system.

Know how far you live from the seaside

Coastal wind and waves can send spray to about 100 meters (109 yards) inland. This is why corrosion-resistant panels and mounting solutions are recommended if you live within 200 meters of the seaside. Knowing your property’s distance from the seaside will help you better prepare against salt and corrosion.

Use Certified Solar Panels

Solar panels from reputable manufacturers will come with IEC 61701 certification. This means that they can stand the effects of salt mist. The IEC 61701 standard has six levels of corrosion resistance, with Level 6 being the highest level of corrosion resistance. Datasheets of solar panels will note if they have been IEC 61701 certified, and at which level. It’s also good to check how the warranty on your solar panels covers salt and corrosion damage. 

Maintaining and painting your solar panels

One of the precautionary measures to take with solar panels is to paint the outer frame of your solar panels to resist any corrosion build-up. This can also be done with racking and mounting equipment to protect them from corrosion as well.

Even with paint, regular cleaning and maintenance checks of your solar panels will be important to keep them from losing performance and efficiency. Especially if your property is close to any seaside spray and mist. Keeping your panels clean from salt crystals and algae will ensure your panels perform at their best and reduce the effects of shading.

Sealing up wiring and protect your inverter

Electrical writing and contacts can be affected by salt corrosion. One precautionary measure you can take is to seal any exposed components to prevent saltwater exposure. Your solar power inverter should also be placed in a shaded housing like a cabinet or cover to prevent any saltwater exposure.

Get started with solar energy today

If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.