Solar panel cleaning is quickly evolving into a space that could be more appropriately called PV surface cleaning. I’m the Founder and CEO of Soilar Technologies, a next-gen PV soiling mitigation company dedicated to understanding the financial impact of photovoltaic (PV) soiling and solving PV soiling challenges. I’ve been working closely with leaders in the window cleaning industry to address the overlap we see in the field. 

How are the industries converging? As technology advances, photovoltaic energy can be produced in more ways than from a traditional solar panel. Ubiquitous Energy has announced that in 2025 they will be mass-producing transparent solar windows, and Envelon is already manufacturing and installing PV (photovoltaic) facades. Disruptive innovations like Ubiquitous Windows, Envelon’s PV facades, and GAF Energy’s first nailable shingle are driving this segment on a new roller coaster ride. 

Commercial and residential buildings are some of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors. According to the EPA, the energy sector accounts for approximately 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The United States’ commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and a net-zero power sector by 2035, provide a foundation for our prosperity and national security. 

As the world races to net zero, solar grows. Hence, the need for solar panel cleaning. 

What are the challenges in solar panel cleaning, and how is the window cleaning industry going to tackle these challenges? I interviewed the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) about their outlook on the topic. IWCA President Sheila Smeltzer communicated that the drivers for solar panel cleaning are different than for window cleaning. While window cleaning is primarily done for aesthetic reasons, solar panel cleaning is done for economic reasons. The IWCA has launched a Solar Panel Cleaning Subcommittee, operating under their Safety/Education Committee, and over the past several months has begun comprehensive work on an educational program to tackle present and future cleaning challenges. Products of this committee will include a fundamentals course, business tools, sector-specific training, and an emphasis on safety training (ladders, aerial platforms, roof work, and electrical hazards). While the window cleaning industry is over 150 years old, the solar panel cleaning industry is, at most, 20 years old. These education and training products will help to bridge the gap to understanding the newer industry.