New business in energy?

15th of April 2010

As renewable energy becomes a much-discussed topic in Scandinavia, Tom Crockford - ECJ reporter - looks at the opportunities for the cleaning sector.

Renewable energy is a topic much discussed here in Scandinavia, despite the apparent failure of the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen at the end of last year. To be more accurate, it might perhaps be better to use the phrase ‘clean energy’, since nuclear power is very much in the spotlight as Finland nears completion of its fifth nuclear reactor, and Sweden mulls the pros and cons of renewing its nuclear energy programme.

Amidst these big national energy decision-making discussions, there has been a steady and rapidly increasing growth in the sale of solar panels at a more grass roots level – both for home and industrial energy purposes. Though it may sound strange to associate these northern parts with solar energy - especially after having just endured the harshest winter in 40 years - the fact is that Scandinavia has a huge natural advantage. The ‘white nights’ phenomenon that gives seemingly endless hours of daylight during the summer months is a powerful driving force behind the rise in popularity of solar power in this part of Europe.

Solar panel installation

The installation of solar panels can be seen everywhere, not only in new home building, but also in summer cottages and factories. While for bigger users of electricity, hybrid systems might be needed to handle demand during the dark winter days, the use of solar energy will perhaps be increasingly part of the region’s energy supply in the coming years.

This will surely have some kind of impact on the cleaning profession. Just as window cleaning became an established part of the professional cleaning sector during the 20th century, so might solar panel cleaning become a natural extension of the cleaning services being offered in the 21st. But while window cleaning is largely a cosmetic service, solar panel cleaning is much more. For if a solar system is to operate at its rated capacity, the panels must be clean so that the maximum amount of sunlight can pass through them.

Hard to access

There is another reason why solar panel cleaning services are likely to be needed, and that is that they are located on rooftops and generally hard-to-access places. Whereas windows, particularly those at ground level, can often be cleaned by the homeowner or cleaner without the need for outside assistance, roof-mounted panels are likely to need a specialist with the proper safety equipment. Dust, normal airborne particulate, pollen in spring and bird droppings, all need to be removed for the panels to operate at proper efficiency. And then, of course, during the winter months snow accumulation has to be removed, otherwise the panels won’t work at all.

Today we take window cleaning for granted. It is such a part of everyday life and is a service offered throughout the entire scale of service contractors, from one-man operators to the largest firms. Solar panel cleaning is never likely to have such a level of impact, if for no other reason than that there will always be far more windows than there are solar panels. Nevertheless, one can’t help wondering if this isn’t a business opportunity waiting to be exploited.


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