How to pigeon proof your solar panels

Protect your solar panels from pigeon damage.

If you’ve got solar panels, or you’re thinking of getting them, you’ll want them to be as effective and long-lasting as possible. That means you might need to deal with pesky pigeons. Unfortunately, our feathered friends are partial to the shelter offered by solar panels – and their droppings can reduce the panels’ effectiveness and even cause long-term damage.

So how can you protect your solar panels? According to the experts, pigeon-proofing is easiest to do at the install stage, but you can still use these techniques if you already have panels and a pigeon problem. Here’s how they recommend you deal with the issue.

Pigeons can be attracted to solar panelsCredit: Frank Cornelissen
Pigeons can be attracted to solar panels

What you can expect to pay for pigeon-proofing your solar panels will depend on the method you opt for, whether you do it at installation or retrospectively, and how big your panels are.

The Eco Experts suggest that £500-700 is a typical cost of pigeon-proofing existing solar panels.

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What damage do pigeons cause?

Droppings block the sunlight and they can damage the panels too

Nesting pigeons are partial to the warmth offered by solar panels and tuck themselves and their nests between the roof and the panels, happily protecting their eggs and unaware of the chaos they are causing.

But nesting pigeons aren’t the only problem. Pigeons perching on your chimney stack, TV aerial or an overhanging tree can leave behind a trail of mess on your panels. Or – even worse – damage them with their sharp talons when using them as a landing pad. And if that wasn’t enough, birds can attract bugs, rodents and other vermin, compounding the possible damage.   

Meanwhile, Ben Robinson, director at solar installation company Cambridge Solar, is more concerned with the effect of the pigeon mess than the pigeons landing on panels. “If the panels are well made, they can cope with it as they are tested for impact,” he says. “The bird mess affects the panels’ output though, so that needs to be cleaned off.”

Solar company Deege Solar also states on its website: “The droppings contain a high level of acidity, which can cause erosion to wires and even damage the surface of your solar panels.”

It’s worth saying that not everyone finds this a problem. The RSPB installs solar panels at its bird reserves – as we explain later.

When’s the best time to pigeon-proof your solar panels?

It’s cheaper at the outset

“Every home is different,” says Ben Whittle, renewables technical manager at the Energy Saving Trust, “but if you think that birds will become an issue, it would be worth considering protecting your panels at the time of installation.”

Robinson recommends checking to see if there’s a pigeon issue in your area before installing any solar panels. “It’s always best to look at any neighbours’ roofs with solar panels and see if they’ve got any pigeon-proofing,” he says, “because fitting pigeon-proofing retrospectively is very expensive. You’ll need all the scaffolding to go back up again, which is very costly.”

Why you can’t remove nesting birds

“It’s illegal, with some rare exceptions, to deliberately take, damage, or destroy a nest,” says Nigel Symes, head of business conservation strategy at the RSPB. “This would include preventing birds’ access to an active nest through netting, from the first moment a bird starts building it. As soon as a bird puts down its first twigs, it is protected until nesting is over.”

“To be safe,” says Symes, “it’s best to wait until September to remove a nest, as birds can lay multiple eggs throughout spring and summer.”

Ways to pigeon proof your solar panels

There are several ways to birdproof your solar panels to ensure you gain the optimum output from your green energy investment.

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1. Place bird mesh between the panels and the roof

Stop them nesting underneath

Bird mesh is added between the roof and the panels to prevent pigeons from nesting underneath. The mesh is attached with steel metal clips that run around the perimeter of the panels. While it will prevent pigeons from nesting, it won’t stop pigeons from perching on your rooftop or chimney stack and leaving their corrosive mark.

Featured product

Wired bird mesh, Deege Solar

RRP: £55, per panel

Wired bird mesh, Deege Solar

2. Use a bird blocker strip

Create a barrier to pigeons

Bird blocker is similar to bird mesh, as it forms a barrier around the perimeter of the solar panels to prevent birds from nesting underneath. It’s made from a strip of needle-like lengths of plastic that are attached to the panel with a clip, which the birds will find impossible to remove.

Featured product

Bird blocker, Stoves and Solar

RRP: £87.60, 10m (32ft 8in)

Bird blocker, Stoves and Solar

3. Make the roof less inviting with bird spikes

Birds won’t settle on sharp objects

Anti-roosting spikes, as the name suggests, make a particularly uncomfortable perch for a pigeon and stop them from settling on your roof. However, they are not as discrete as mesh or netting. They are available in plastic or stainless steel.

Featured product

Defender wide stainless steel bird spikes, Jones & Son Pest Control Supplies

RRP: £3.60, per 33cm (13in) strip

Defender wide stainless steel bird spikes, Jones & Son Pest Control Supplies

4. Fit a solar skirt

A skirt looks smart around your panels

As an alternative to wire mesh, a solar skirt will fit around the perimeter of your solar panels. It provides a sleek effect without gaps and does not pierce the roof or the solar panels.

Featured product

Solar skirt, Deege Solar

RRP: £130, per panel

Solar skirt, Deege Solar

5. Scare off the pigeons with deterrents

Use decoys that mimic predators

Apart from the products designed specifically to prevent birds from accessing your solar panels, other deterrents are cheaper and still effective at keeping birds away, such as pigeon decoys.

For instance, a decoy owl will prey on a pigeon’s instinctive fear of this predatory animal.

Featured product

Owl decoy, Amazon

RRP: £22.99

Owl decoy, Amazon

Pigeon problems? Remove tempting food

Apart from adding preventative measures to your solar panels it’s also important to discourage pigeons from your garden by removing potential food sources. It can also prevent other unwanted visitors such as foxes.

I like having birds in my garden. Are there any alternative solutions?

Encourage the birds to nest elsewhere

If you’re worried about birds nesting under your solar panels, there is an alternative. “You could always try putting up a nest box to encourage them to nest somewhere that works better for you,” says Symes, adding a cautionary note…” although pigeons won’t use a nest box.”

Although there are many concerns that birds, especially pigeons, damage solar panels, the RSPB has a different viewpoint, and demonstrates this by installing solar panels at its nature reserves.

“Renewable energy is essential for wildlife and people,” says Symes. “Climate heating is causing real challenges for many species in the UK and abroad. So, by using rooftop solar panels on your home, you’re not only helping to tackle the climate crisis, you’re helping to tackle the twinned biodiversity crisis at the same time (and if a bird uses your solar panel as a place to nest, it’s another added benefit).”

Keeping your solar panels clean

Wash off the droppings

Solar panels on roof top covered in pigeon droppingsCredit: Marcin Rogozinski
Clean your solar panels regularly to remove pigeon droppings.

Pigeon poo can decrease the efficiency of solar panels as it covers the panels and reduces the surface area that the sun can penetrate.

“All solar panel systems will build up some dirt over time,” says Whittle. “Rainwater will mostly keep them clean but small amounts of dirt and debris will settle, for example, from bird droppings, road pollution or nearby trees. It’s a good idea to have panels cleaned regularly,” he advises, “to ensure they’re working effectively. And lots of window cleaners are beginning to offer these services.”

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Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

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With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.