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Solar Panel Rain capture (and other uses)

 
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Hey all,

My wife and I just bought a hosue that has solar installed and as I am planning our future permaculture farmstead, I am trying to figure out how best to make maximal use out of all the space we have. One of my first chalenges if deciding how to use the area taken up in the lawn by the solar panels. I want to be effcient in my uae of space, and also maximize water capture. So for this space I was thinking to set up rainwater capture off the panels, and maybe low compost bays underneath (they are in the yard but fairly elevated, there should be space for this under there). But I really don't know anything about solar, and I'm concerned about possible toxicity from the panels getting into the water or compost. Is this something I should be worried about? Do these panels ever leak toxic substances, or would it be pretty safe? And while I'm at it, are there any considerations I haven't accounted for that might mean these are bad ideas?

Thanks!
 
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I wouldn't be too worried about water contamination. Solar panels are usually well sealed up, with a glass or plastic cover that the rain would be running down.  Space underneath is dry covered area, so good for storage, bike parking maybe?  Depends on location.  Compost bins are usually best located convenient to the garden and kitchen.
 
gardener
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I have worked on municipal sized solar projects with ground mounted panels.
Based on my experience,  I would want to be certain the paths between them stayed clear of mud, etc.
Clover might be good for that.
The water capture is a nice idea.
PV works better when the panels themselves are kept at a moderate temp, so maybe storing the water under the panels would help.
Mushroom logs ,barrel ponds or cuttings for propagation might do well in the shade.


 
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Location: Minnesota
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I'm now having this question, it's why I'm here.
I've had the solar panels for 5 years, on my roof, and most of my drinking water comes from them - filtered through a dishtowel or Tshirt. Recently (I avoid doctors) I had a test showing kidney disease. No reason. So I'm looking at the solar panels - lead and hexavalent chromium are the two possible items. But will they be on the outside, to leach into my water? I don't know yet.
I'm looking for a test for those two items, to ease my mind. Or other information sources, that's why I'm here now.

Maybe I'll find more information in the other replies, but for the moment I'm saying we're not absolutely certain it's safe.
 
pollinator
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From rainwater off solar opanels
I found this

"Significance
The significance of this project is solar panels installed on rooftops can become a source of metal contaminants for rainwater harvesting systems installed in the same
residential household. Results indicate that harvested rainwater from a newly installed  amorphous silicon thin film solar panel suggest that the concentrations of cadmium and lead
might be elevated for potable uses.
Nonetheless, these water quality indicators of harvested rainwater from a solar panel may change as the solar panel undergoes weathering and aging.
Further work is needed to fully understand how solar panels can impact the water quality of harvested rainwater from rooftops."

But read the whole paper please.
 
Shodo Spring
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Thanks so much.
It's important research. More needs to be done:
the findings on lead were of concern, as were those on cadmium. And the suggestion that older panels might be more hazardous.
My panels are of the older kind, with lead and hexavalent chromium as main concerns. (Apparently hexavalent chromium has been replaced since 2017.

What search terms did you use? I might need to look more.
Really, thank you.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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No idea, but I suspect problems for humans with rainfall collection from solar panels
 
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If my *only* source of *drinking* water was rainwater collection, that would have to be treated much differently than gathering water for landscaping and such. I'm not even sure I could filter the water *enough* coming off of a plain roof ... way too many sources of contaminants for my comfort, and filtering water in quantity seems a massive effort requiring some serious research.

On top of that, water is the best solvent around (over time). In the built environment, where some manufacturer creates a product with no requirement to determine long-range impacts to humans or the environment, who knows what is up there on a typical roof, and what the long-term affects are of anything coming off of it? Roofing materials, paints or colorants, penetrations and sealants, etc. I'd be afraid of the *quantity* of MSDS sheets for each thing up there ... and reading them? I like my horror stories on TV ...

Without knowing how water comes into your property, from all possible sources, I'd at minimum get a Berkey in front of whatever you use for actual drinking water ...

*If* I were going to drink water from a rainwater source, I'd do everything in my power to get the research done first, then build a rainwater collection surface that is as contaminent-free as possible, gathered into some storage system that is potable-class, with a filtering system (from NASA almost), and finally, test it on myself first (and possibly a laboratory test system as well), before giving it to my children whose bodies are still growing and at more risk from contaminents. A Berkey would be the last step in that process.

Otherwise, any rainwater collected goes to non-human/animal functions like landscaping. Anything going into your body has to have some thought given to it ... especially these days. If we want only good foodstuffs going in, where we know how it was grown, etc., at least the same amount of thought should be given to the water source going into our bodies. Flush the toilet with anything, but only drink from a known-good source.

*And* get a Berkey ...
 
pollinator
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After reading that paper it seems the biggest culprits were thin film plastic covered panels and broken panels. The paper is quite old and thin film is not much of a player these days. If a glass covered panel is leaching metals chances are good that panel is toast anyways. Asphalt shingles though leach all sorts of fun stuff...
 
John C Daley
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I found the source of the information about the panels
Rian and old solar panels
 
John C Daley
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Shodo Spring wrote:Thanks so much.
It's important research. More needs to be done:
the findings on lead were of concern, as were those on cadmium. And the suggestion that older panels might be more hazardous.
My panels are of the older kind, with lead and hexavalent chromium as main concerns. (Apparently hexavalent chromium has been replaced since 2017.

What search terms did you use? I might need to look more.
Really, thank you.



rain froim old solar panels
 
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