Pigeons under the panels - what can you do to protect your roof-mounted solar PV?
Posted by Sam Tonge on 24 April 2018 at 9:34 am
So you’ve recently had solar PV installed on the roof of your home. It’s looking clean and shiny and is all ready to cut your bills and carbon footprint. You’d be justified in thinking that your new source of renewable electricity would be the envy of your neighbours. However, in this blog we explore how the complete opposite can end up being the case, and what you can actually do about it.
To allow space for electrical equipment and cables and to ensure your panels don’t overheat, a small gap must be left between your roof tiles and your solar PV panels. However this inadvertently provides a suitable home for rodents such as the Grey Squirrel, and more commonly, urban bird species such as the Feral Pigeon (Columbia Liva).
Although the presence of such creatures may seem relatively innocuous at first glance, their prolonged residence underneath your solar PV has proved a nuisance for many micro-generators who’ve contacted us, with common complaints often concerned with both noise and mess.
Many of you who installed solar PV may have done so to benefit the environment, including animals within the ecosystem! However, you may not have envisaged being woken up at the crack of dawn by cooing and scratching noises, your gutters filled with Pigeon debris and faeces on the roof, external walls and garden.
Not only is this unsightly and inconvenient, but it could also lead to damage to the roof tiles and even the PV panels. Pigeon droppings on and around your solar PV is likely to have a corrosive effect on your roof tiles, particularly on older rooftops. Bird droppings on top of the panels is also likely to have the effect of reducing their efficiency depending on the extent of it. The area underneath the panels can also be damaged as a result of nesting, as Pigeons can dislodge wiring and even stop the solar panel system working altogether.
There’s a whole host of pest control companies out there offering their own solution to the problem. However we suggest that you check first whether any attempt to remove Feral Pigeons and any other critters from your rooftop will be done in a way that is legal, humane and not unnecessarily harmful to local wildlife.
We spoke to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who stated that although it’s always best to try and live alongside nature, this is not always possible in certain circumstances such as these. The RSPB said that whether you’re able to intervene with Pigeons under your solar panels (or anywhere else for that matter) would depend on whether or not there is an active nest in the vicinity. The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) states that you cannot destroy, block off or even move an active nest site, regardless of the species. Although it may sometimes be difficult to tell if a nest site is active, a good way to tell is if the birds are flying back and forth with nesting material, and if there is a bird reluctant to vacate a nest upon your arrival. Active nests of Feral Pigeons can only be removed in limited circumstances, under the terms of a General License, issued by Natural England for Health and Safety Purposes.
If there is no active nest site, then you are within your rights to flush out the Feral Pigeons, and prevent them from returning to the site, although we strongly recommend that you do it humanely and without causing harm to the birds.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent Feral Pigeons getting underneath the PV panels is to get netting professionally installed by a reputable tradesperson. However this will of course cost money to get installed, and will need to be maintained to make sure it remains intact and doesn’t injure, harm or trap any birds.
We suggest that the best way to avoid the issue is to ask your installer what you can do during the installation process, in order to avoid becoming the neighbourhood Pigeon hub in the first place.
Is this an experience you have had to deal with? Do let us know how you’ve managed it.
About the author:
Sam has contributed to our blog since 2016 and previously worked for the National Energy Foundation.
He became interested in green energy after completing a degree in Geography (BSc) at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Sam is passionate about renewable energy and is committed to spreading the word about the role it plays in delivering environmental sustainability.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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