The fish-flavored modules are designed to attract cats, their saliva helping keep the panels clean and performing at optimum efficiency.
British scientists at the Institute of Scientific Studies have developed a salmon-scented solar module coating that they claim can help improve PV efficiency by as much as 5%.
In laboratory tests, researchers applied their special fishy coating to a small rooftop-size array and observed how their two test cats Lirpa and Lofo were inextricably drawn to the module's scent, licking the face of the panels for hours at a time.
After scaring the cats off with a recording of an irate neighbor banging a wooden spoon against a saucepan while hissing "Shoo! Shoo!", the scientists discovered that the modules were approximately 25% cleaner than before, which could lead to improved efficiencies of 5%.
"Cats are incredibly good for solar modules," said lead researcher, Felix Lickspittle. "Their rough tongue cleans the module's surface of grime and impurities, while the enzymes in their saliva leave an incredibly transparent sheen that helps magnify the sun's rays. And while there is no actual food on the modules, they do not harm the cats in any way."
The salmon scent is just the first in a range of aromas being trialed by the laboratory. "After salmon we've also looked at tuna, mouse and chicken," added Lickspittle. "But we're reluctant to get too ‘meaty' should any dogs get a whiff and begin trying to scale people's homes. They're not as dexterous as cats and we don't want any canine deaths on our hands."
If successful, the researchers have suggested that they will look at other possible adaptations they could introduce to make solar modules more attractive to cats. "We've toyed with the idea of having the modules emit the sound of a baby sleeping, but in tests the cats just sit on the modules, which isn't ideal.
"We've also coated modules in bird feather in the hope that this too would attract the cats. But in tests Lirpa simply stalks the module slowly before darting off in a different direction once within striking distance, while Lofo just sits next to the module, staring and occasionally threatening to swipe at it with her paw. But she never does. I think we need new cats."
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