Everything You Need to Know About Solar Panels and Birds

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Everything You Need to Know About Solar Panels and Birds

Solar panels are an excellent way to cut down on using natural gases while providing the energy your home needs. You’re not only helping the planet but also helping yourself by gaining energy independence in a clean and sustainable way.

But what about the critters and birds that may try to get under your panels? We know birds and other small animals enjoy nesting in our gutters, under our panels and anywhere else safe from the elements. But what should we do about it?

Here, we’ll discuss solar panels, birds, how birds may affect your solar panels and what you can do to save their lives (as well as your solar panels).

How Solar Power Benefits Birds

Believe it or not, solar panels actually benefit birds. 

Two-thirds of U.S. electricity comes from burning oil, coal and natural gas. These materials combust and release carbon pollution that eventually forms a blanket layer in the atmosphere that traps heat. This pollution causes global environmental issues, one of which is forcing birds to find new places to live and feed.

According to the Audubon Society, two-thirds of North America’s birds could face extinction if we don’t slow rising temperatures.

Fortunately, solar panels don’t use coal or natural gases to produce energy — they need only direct sunlight!

[Related: How Going Solar Benefits the Environment and Public Health]

Do Solar Panels Attract Birds?

Yes, solar panels attract birds for several reasons. 

Birds are often attracted to the reflective surfaces of solar panels, just as they are with windows.

But they’re also attracted to solar panels for safety reasons. They often nest under panels to care for their young because solar panels provide warmth and shelter.

Do Solar Panels Kill Birds?

Solar panels do not kill birds outright. 

However, birds are attracted to the shininess of solar panels, which often look like moving water when flying above. Some birds mistake panels for bodies of water and try to dive into the “water,” which hurts or kills them. 

Many researchers have noted birds that try to dive into solar panels are aquatic species.

Folks with solar systems in residential areas that aren’t too close to large water bodies won’t experience this issue, but it’s still a possibility. Researchers are using AI to track and monitor which bird species dive into solar panels to prevent the problem.

Regardless of which species are attracted to solar panels, the consensus is that reports of solar panel-associated bird deaths are exaggerated. Even the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bird and bird habitat conservation, supports solar power

“As with most renewable energy sources, the benefits to birds by reducing carbon emissions outweigh other concerns, as long as the installations are built with care,” states the Audubon Society.

Can Birds Damage Solar Panels?

Solar panel systems typically have space between the panels and the roof to allow room for wiring and ventilation. Thanks to solar panels’ shading, many small animals nest or seek shelter under them to avoid wind, rain and heat.

In addition to building nests under solar panels, birds often leave droppings, broken eggs and dead chicks underneath. If these accumulate under your panels, the mass reduces the airflow needed to prevent solar panels from overheating. 

The mess may also flow into your gutters and down the side of your house. There, it causes blockages and an unpleasant sight and smell. A sizable infestation can block gutters and damage roofs within one week if you don’t monitor the situation carefully.

Bird droppings don’t collect just under your panels — they can collect on top of them, too. It’s best to clean off droppings as soon as possible.

If you don’t, the droppings can hinder your panels’ effectiveness. Plus, once droppings harden from heat, the mess can be difficult to remove.

Damages From Other Small Critters

Other critters such as squirrels also enjoy nesting under solar panels. They may even try to chew on exposed wires, which can cause your system to run ineffectively.

This doesn’t just affect your panels’ energy generation. You’ll also have to pay out of pocket to repair any chewed-up wires. It’s best to inspect your wires as soon as you suspect an infestation.

Additionally, the presence of nesting materials, leaves, debris and chewed wires can pose a fire hazard.

[Related: Solar Panel Insurance: How Solar Panels Affect Home Insurance]

Solar Panel Bird-Proofing

So, how do you protect your solar panels from birds? You have several options.

Wire Mesh

Securing wire mesh to solar panels’ edges helps stop birds and other small animals from nesting under the system. This also prevents debris from collecting under or in between solar panels.

You’ll need to contact professionals to install this type of protection because solar panels are usually installed on roofs. This sometimes makes them difficult to access.

Roof Spikes

Roof spikes aren’t the most attractive option for keeping birds away from your solar panels, but they help. 

These spikes don’t hurt birds, but they make it uncomfortable for birds to rest. This prevents them from nesting and landing near your panels.

Plastic Predators

Birds have difficulty distinguishing artificial birds from real ones. Placing decoys on your roof has a similar effect to putting scarecrows in fields.

If you place an owl with a swiveling head on your roof, that’s sufficient to scare birds away from solar panels. And while plastic predators might seem old-school, they’re highly effective at keeping away pigeons and other bird species.

Solar Panel Maintenance

You’ll want to ensure solar panels remain as clean as possible to keep birds and critters away from your system. 

It’s critical to clean panels regularly and take care of any mounting issues or cracks. Ensure your panels get the proper servicing and cleaning so they remain up to par.

[Related: Solar Power Maintenance: What You Need to Know]

Additional Considerations for Reducing Effects on Wildlife

If you’re concerned about the effects that solar panels have on birds and other wildlife, you can take steps to reduce their impact. For example, the Audubon Society recommends the following:

  • Take advantage of rooftop and wall-mounted solar whenever possible to make use of existing infrastructure and avoid habitat disruption.
  • Take special precautions when installing large solar panel systems. Precautions include avoiding bird habitat disruption and reducing the chances of birds colliding with infrastructure. This infrastructure involves the panels themselves, transmission lines and substations.
  • Consider growing native plant species around your solar panel installation to benefit birds and other pollinators.

Contact Freedom Solar to Transition to Solar Power

Overall, solar power helps create a brighter future for birds, wildlife and the entire planet. Taking special precautions helps minimize the risk of your solar panel system hurting birds and other nearby local wildlife. 

If you want to learn more about reducing solar panels’ impact on birds, setting up a new solar panel system, or bird-proofing or maintaining your existing system, contact Freedom Solar

Call us at (800) 504-2337 or complete our inquiry form. One of our solar specialists will be in touch!

Featured image via Pixabay

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Willie Nelson for Freedom Solar

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