One of the UK’s largest solar panel cleaning companies is taking its job to the next level after investing in a giant solar farm wiper.
A Cleaner Generation invested in the specially designed car wash style roller so it can scale up cleaning solar farms up and down the country.
Based in St Agnes, the firm decided that cleaning solar farms by hand was fine to a point, but investing a giant washing roller which can be fitted to a tractor allowed to do much bigger solar farms faster and more consistently.
A Cleaner Generation, launched in 2014 by Paul Wheeler and Chris Pound, initially cleaned solar panels locally in Cornwall and gained expertise through working in partnership with Natural Generation for a German client.
In 2016 A Cleaner Generation cleaned more than a million panels nationwide, making them one of the largest solar cleaning facilities in the country.
There are more than 70 super sized solar farms in Cornwall (Image: A Cleaner Generation)
There are more than 70 large scale solar farms in Cornwall – some of which have more than 5,000 panels.
Mr Pound said: “We are able to clean around 25,000 by hand in a week with our current team. We recently finished a contract in Swindon, which has close to 250,000 panels, and we had to hire 15 temporary workers over three weeks.
“Inevitably the quality of cleaning by hand can vary so by investing in this new machinery we are going to not only be more efficient and productive but also ensure we are providing a better quality of service to our customers.”
The investment has been made possible through a loan from local Responsible Finance provider SWIG Finance, with match funding from the Business Investment for Growth 2 (BIG2) grant fund.
Chris Pound and Paul Wheeler, A Cleaner Generation, Anna Staevska, BIG2, John Peters, SWIG Finance (Image: SWIG FInance)
The new machinery mounts onto the side of a tractor and functions in a similar way to rollers in a car wash.
A Cleaner Generation had the machine made to its unique requirements by the manufacturer, meaning they are able to use the machine with a multitude of vehicles depending upon ground conditions.
The machine also has two interchangeable arms, one five metres long for the regular sized solar farms and the other 7.2 metres for ‘super-sized’ farms.
Mr Pound added: “It varies how often farms elect to have their panels cleaned however the general recommendation is annually. It is estimated that farms see a 10% improvement in solar production once they have been cleaned.
“We currently have around 60 contracts nationwide and we are hoping to grow in the future to take on more.”
Mr Pound said keeping solar panels clean is much more than cosmetics. Dust and dirt can significantly reduce solar panel efficiency and thus affect the returns from your investments.
Currently A Cleaner Generation has three employees and the business now plans to take on two more thanks to the new investment.
“The machinery cost £45,000,” said Mr Pound. “We needed support to help pay for it before it started to pay for itself. We received a loan of £27,500 from SWIG Finance matched with a grant of £18,000 from BIG2 which has been instrumental in us being able to take this step.”
Super sized solar farms in Cornwall (Image: Ordnance Survey / Crown)
SWIG Finance managing director, John Peters, said: “There is a high demand for the services that A Cleaner Generation provides and they have some excellent existing contracts.
“It’s clear that this machinery really will make a big difference to their business and allow them to continue to grow and we wish Paul and Chris every success in the future.”
Truro-based finance provider SWIG Finance has invested more than £6m into around 400 Cornish businesses over the last five years. The not-for-profit company supports start-ups and growing businesses that are not able to raise sufficient bank finance.
Delivered by Cornwall Development Company and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) BIG2 aims to support 200 businesses in Cornwall with growth projects, and create 360 jobs by 2018.
BIG2 programme manager, Anna Staevska added: “Programmes like BIG2 and lenders such as SWIG Finance are vital in helping businesses access the finance they need to invest in their plans for growth. These investments allow companies to break into new markets, create new innovative products and realise their vision.”
Source: Cornwall Live