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Fuller products used to clean dirty solar panels
COURTESY PHOTO Dirt and grime can block the sun’s rays and reduce the electricity a solar panel produces.

With more individuals mounting solar panels on their properties and the possibility of Acciona Energy constructing a solar installation n Barton County, Fuller Industries and its Fuller Custom Brushes are on the forefront of this emerging technology, said Joe Mann, Fuller vice president and general manager.

“We are always looking for ways to help companies that need our custom industrial brushes,” he said. “We’ve long served a wide variety of industries, including commercial baking, agricultural, woodworking, aerospace, printing, material-handling, mass transit, machine tool, and the list goes on and on. One of the more recent additions is the renewable-energy industry. Consider if you will, the challenge of the solar panel.”

The panels have a tempered glass face, laminated with an antireflective coating. The slick surface of uncoated glass, like a window, helps keep it clean and shed dust, so the surface of a photovoltaic cell is more prone to soiling, he said.

Solar panels are usually mounted at an angle, instead of vertically. This, of course, is all the better to catch the sun’s rays directly. As anyone who has a skylight set in a pitched roof can attest, it’s the vertical positioning of windows that help keep them clean.

“Because of the shadow, placing them beneath a shelter won’t work: Solar panels have to be out in the elements, and, exposed as they are, they get rained on, dust collects on that dull surface, and of course, passing birds occasionally find ways to hamper their effectiveness,” Mann said.

Plus every grain of dust or bird dropping on that glass surface makes the panel less efficient, and the effect is multiplied over time.

“Often in the solar energy industry, we see those economies of scale at work,” he said. “That is to say, if it’s a good spot to place 10 photovoltaic cells, then it’s a great spot to place a 100 of them,” he said. “That will add up to a fair amount of easy-to-soil anti-reflective glass. Multiply it across several locations and you’ve got yourself a cleaning job that can use more power than you’re generating.”

These are some of the considerations that were brought to Fuller by a client who needed a way to clean large numbers of solar panels efficiently, regularly, without leaving them soiled, but also without damaging or abrading the antireflective surface.

“The way we set ourselves apart from other brush companies is by establishing a relationship with our customers so that we know we understand the nuances and details of their specific brush needs,” Mann said. “We work with our clients to deliver exactly what they’re after, using our expertise and experience, knowledge of materials and brush design, trim, and shape to meet the goal of the specifications as well as the measurements.”

In this case, the client presented them with the specifications they needed to meet, and the company came up with the right brush design, the right size, and diameter to ensure a clean sweep of every surface it touches, quickly and efficiently. “The design keeps those solar panels clean, beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Mann said.

About Fuller Industries Inc.

Based in Great Bend, with a rich heritage dating back over a century to the Fuller Brush Man, Fuller Industries is a leading American manufacturer of industrial products, including cleaning chemicals and supplies, as well as brooms, mops, brushes and more. Fuller serves manufacturing, commercial, institutional and agricultural clients nationwide. Call 620-792-1711 or visit