oday, the world is closer to a renewable future than ever – the global clean energy market has grown significantly over decades and is expected to expand further. Being the fastest-growing renewable, solar quickly becomes the mainspring of the energy transition, with thousands of people outfitting their homes with photovoltaic panels.
Yet while the idea of going solar sounds very appealing, homeowners should accept the fact that the panels won’t be there forever. Although the sun is an infinite energy source, PV panels age just like any other electrical equipment. Here's all you need to know about solar panels life.
What is the usual lifespan of a panel?
Now for the good news: solar modules will serve you well for a very long time. The typical warranty for a solar panel system would guarantee a 25-year lifespan, this is basically the industry standard. Such a long solar panel lifespan gives you plenty of time to receive a many-fold return on your initial solar investment.
However, this warranty period only applies to crystalline silicon modules - the most common option on the market. Thin-film solar panels, which are now steadily gaining in popularity, are generally warranted for only 2-5 years because they are far less resilient, although they have some other advantages over crystalline panels.
But naturally, solar panels won’t suddenly stop working after 25 years, this is not how it works. Let’s discover how long they actually last.
Causes of solar panel degradation
The projected life expectancy of solar panels doesn’t indicate when the modules on your roof will stop generating electricity. They will keep working, but their power output will decrease, albeit at a relatively slow pace. Generally, lg solar panels are highly durable equipment that can run like clockwork for decades, so the drop in production won’t be dramatic.
Solar panels located in extreme climate conditions demonstrate higher degradation rates than those in moderate weather. In very cold climates, panels subjected to heavy snow and strong wind suffer the most. It may come as a surprise to you, but the lifespan of solar panels working at high temperatures also tends to be less. Photovoltaic modules in desert climates show a sharper downturn in performance and last less because of the high level of ultraviolet exposure.
Solar panel degradation rates
In most cases, solar panels can be expected to degrade by 0.5% to 1% a year. The rate of decline in power generation is called the solar panel degradation rate.
With photovoltaic technology enhancing over the years, solar panel degradation rates are also constantly improving. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study in 2012 which showed that, on average, solar panel output decreases by 0.8 percent each year. Nowadays, premium solar manufacturers offer degradation rates as low as 0.3 percent.
To figure out what output you can expect after several years of operation, you can make a rather simple calculation: multiply the degradation rate by the number of years and subtract that number from 100%. So a 0.8% degradation rate will mean that after one year of exploitation, your solar panels will operate at 99.2 percent of their original output. And by the end of the 25-year lifetime of solar panels, they will still operate at 82.5 percent.
How long do solar panels last in reality?
Solar panels will keep working for many decades, provided that they aren’t physically damaged by wind, hail, or any other outside factors. This is primarily because photovoltaic panels don’t have any moving parts, so as a rule, they can only be damaged by external forces.
Interestingly enough, many photovoltaic panels installed in the 1980s are still working (after more than 40 years) and are still performing quite well. Thus, the solar panels life expectancy is hard to project. Many factors affect the longevity of a photovoltaic panel.
Top tips on how to enjoy lasting solar power
How can you make your solar panels last longer? Here are some ideas to help prolong the life expectancy of solar PV panels.
- First, pick a reputable manufacturer using long lasting materials to produce the equipment. Materials with poor durability can shorten the life of a solar panel, which is why they must be chosen carefully.
- Make sure that your photovoltaic panels have good access to sunlight. Whenever a panel is shaded by an obstruction, it lowers the amount of electricity it can produce.
- While photovoltaic panels are usually pretty much self-sufficient after their proper installation, annual or biannual cleaning can really help them perform at their best. If you have had a lasting period with no rain, you may want to give them an extra clean once over.
- Do not neglect routine maintenance checks so that you would be able to detect a fault and get it fixed in the early stages.
- If your solar panel system is equipped with battery storage, keep in mind that battery maintenance and replacement can be one of the main expense items associated with a photovoltaic system. Most batteries come with a warranty of 5-15 years, depending on the choice of the brand. But they won't last long if you don’t care for your batteries properly. For instance, lead acid batteries should be charged every day after 15 minutes or more of use, and they will be permanently damaged if this rule is not followed.