Pigeons and solar panels are not a good combination

Why pigeons and other critters could damage your solar investment

When we finally decide to go solar and make the investment in a system that produces clean energy for our home or business, we don’t really think about pests.  We are thinking about saving money, producing clean renewable energy and adding to the value of our home or business.   After all, the panels are on our roof in most cases.  What could possibly harm them up there?

Pigeons and squirrels are infamous pests.   They have a history of pecking or chewing into wiring.   Solar systems installed on rails or placed close to the roof plane make an attractive shelter.  Out here in El Paso and Southern New Mexico, it can get pretty hot and what better place to hide than under your panels.  On the east side of El Paso, pigeons are a nuisance and very abundant.

Squirrels are not that big of a problem since we don’t have a very high population of squirrels. With the exception of the west side of El Paso, high upper valley and Mesilla Valley in New Mexico, we don’t see a lot of tree squirrels. Most of the squirrels in the borderland are ground squirrels. Most of the damage to roofing and solar panels usually comes from pigeons.

I have received multiple calls and heard many concerns from solar customers where pigeons have started nesting under their solar panels and or making a lot of noise on the roof.  They have many reasons to be concerned. Face it! Pigeons and solar panels are not a good combination.

Before you read the rest of this article, it is important to remember that a very small percentage of solar customers have this problem. Owning solar is still simple and requires relatively zero maintenance and for those times maintenance is required, it us usually related to manufacturer’s equipment and covered by warranty. It not usually because of pests.

Where pigeons are a problem, the potential damage to both your panels and your roof could be severe.  The uric acid in pigeon feces is highly corrosive and can cause extensive damage to metals and other roof materials if the feces sits on them for long periods. Debris from flocks of visiting pigeons can build up in areas they make their home. The corrosive material can eat into the tiles and surface of your roof and create abrasions in the glass of your your panels.  The birds could also peck at the wiring underneath the panels, pulling them out to provide material for their nests.

Mitigating Pigeon Damage

There are several ways to mitigate or try to prevent any damage that may occur to your solar panels and the roof beneath.  There are a variety of pest abatement devices such at critter guards, predatory bird replicas or bird spikes. These devices won’t guarantee you will never have a problem with pigeons but they do greatly reduce the odds of it happening.

Cleaning your panels regularly (and at least annually), will also help to reduce any feces build up and mitigate the corrosive damage.

These are low cost solutions that you can buy from places like home improvement stores or even online like Amazon. These devices are made with sharp metal or plastic spikes mounted on a track that installs on your eves, overhangs, or parapet edges. You could even install them on the top edge of your solar panels to keep the birds from using that edge for a perch.  Panel arrays installed on flat roofs are good examples of this.  Each row has a leading edge that birds like to perch on.

One of the very best ways to control and possibly prevent nesting under you panels is by installing a critter guard mesh.  They are anchored along the entire edge of each of your solar arrays.  This helps to prevent the birds from getting under the panels and building a nest.

There are many companies that provide these and you could even take a stab at installing them yourself but the best course of action is to have the system professionally installed.  This way you can minimize leaks in your roof, gaps that will still let the pigeons in and under your panels, or mounting brackets that come loose because they were not installed properly.

Clean-up of existing feces and nesting problems is also an issue for some companies.  They may agree to come out and install the mesh but won’t perform the cleanup.  You should look for a company that will do both.

Other Solutions

There are a myriad of other solutions you could consider, but I would do your research before you buy.  I have read articles touting the benefits of installing predatory bird decoys like hawks and owls, automated horns that sound off and scare the birds away and even the merits of tying lengths of string across where the birds perch.  I even saw a post recently that talked about how pigeons hate the smell of moth balls and how we should all use those.  In any case, you need to make the decision for yourself.  You could try them all or put in the time to do some research.

Solar Smart Living has installed many critter guard meshes

Solar Smart Living is local solar company that has been serving the borderland communities of El Paso to Las Cruces and everything in between.   We have installed many pest abatement meshes and even do the cleanup.  If you would like more information about that, give us a call at 915.400.2995 or request a quote from our website Critter Guard Page.

Do your due diligence

As we shared earlier, it is important to remember that a very small percentage of solar customers in El Paso and Dona Ana Counties have a problem with pests damaging their panels. Owning solar is still simple and requires relatively zero maintenance and for those times maintenance is required, it us usually related to manufacturer’s equipment and covered by warranty.

Just because you have solar energy system on your roof does not mean you will need any kind of pest deterrent. You have to look at your system and your environment and see if it is necessary. We are happy to do a quick review for you.
In many cases, you will not need to add any protective measures.

About the author
Alan Morgan

Alan is a solar and sustainable energy advocate. He has served the renewables industry for over 5 years for companies such as Solar City and Tesla and now acts as the Director of Business and Market Development for Solar Smart Living.