lthough solar panels offer numerous advantages, some homeowners might worry about their longevity and how much their efficiency will degrade over time. Since installing solar panels is a considerable investment, they naturally want to maximize the benefits of solar energy for as long as possible.
In this article, we will delve into the longevity of solar panels and the variables that can impact their performance over the years. Additionally, we'll share some practical advice on how to counteract solar panel degradation and guarantee that your solar panels will keep generating clean and renewable energy for years to come.
How long do solar modules last?
Although most solar panels have an industry-standard 25-30 years warranty, they do not actually stop working at the end of this time period. Instead, they undergo a gradual reduction in energy output, which is known as solar panel degradation. However, with appropriate care and maintenance, the panels can continue to function for many decades despite this decline in performance.
Solar panels are generally tough and can withstand a lot of use without breaking down, thanks to the lack of moving parts. Nonetheless, there are still some factors that can degrade their longevity. Let's examine these factors more closely.
Factors that affect the lifespan of solar panels
Type of a solar technology
There are various types of solar panel technologies available in the market, with monocrystalline and polycrystalline being the most common. Although both types have a long lifespan, monocrystalline panels are more resistant to solar cell degradation and tend to last longer. With proper care and maintenance, monocrystalline solar panels can last up to 30-40 years, while polycrystalline panels typically have a 25-35 years lifespan.
Quality of solar equipment
The quality of the components used in a solar panel system, including the photovoltaic (PV) cells, inverters, and mounting systems, can also affect the lifespan of the panels. High-quality equipment typically lasts longer and requires less maintenance.
Environmental impacts on solar panels
Solar panels are exposed to a range of environmental factors that can impact their lifespan. Extreme temperatures, humidity, and harsh weather conditions can all affect longevity of the panels. It is important to consider these environmental factors when designing and installing a solar panel system.
Solar system maintenance and upkeep
One way to increase the lifespan of solar panels is to do regular cleaning and inspection as part of the proper maintenance and upkeep of the solar panel system. It is essential to follow the manufacturer's recommended panel maintenance schedule and take any necessary steps to ensure the system’s longevity.
Solar panel placement
The placement of solar panels can also affect their lifespan. Solar panels installed in areas that receive more sunlight and are free from shading will generally last longer than panels placed in shaded or low-light areas.
What is solar panel degradation, and what reduction in output do solar panels experience as they age?
With extended use, the efficiency of solar panels decreases, which is commonly referred to as solar panel degradation. Research conducted by NREL indicates that the median solar panel degradation rate is roughly 0.5%, which means that the electricity production from a panel will decrease by that same percentage each year. This implies that after two decades of use, the panel is predicted to lose approximately 10% of the electricity it produced in its initial year.
What causes solar panel degradation?
There are several factors that can cause solar panel degradation, including wear and tear, exposure to UV rays, and adverse weather conditions. The most common form of degradation is light-induced degradation (LID), which occurs when solar panels are first installed and exposed to the sun, reducing their performance by 1-3%.
Another type of solar panel degradation is potential-induced degradation (PID), which occurs when different components of the solar panel operate at different voltages, causing voltage leaks and reducing the amount of electricity sent to the inverter. Although this type of degradation is less common, it can cause a panel to lose as much as 30% or more of its performance.
Over time, age-related factors can also contribute to solar panel degradation, such as exposure of the panel to the elements. Heavy rainfall, snowfall, ice, and high temperatures can cause crystalline silicon hardening, frame corrosion, and cell contamination. Microcracks on a solar panel can also occur due to hail, ice, dust, and sand, and semiconductor material reactions can create shadowing that reduces the amount of light converted into power. It is important to take these factors into account when evaluating the long-term performance and durability of solar panels.
What can we do to reduce deterioration of solar modules?
Let's take a closer look at some of the critical techniques that can be used to increase the longevity of solar modules and reduce the rate of solar panel degradation.
Installing solar modules correctly
First, make sure your panels are installed properly. Incorrect installation can lead to premature solar panel degradation, module failure, or reduced energy output. A professional solar installation ensures that solar panels are correctly positioned and secured, reducing the likelihood of damage caused by wind or other weather conditions.
Regularly cleaning and maintaining solar modules
Solar panels are designed to be low maintenance, but they do require some upkeep. Regular cleaning can help remove dirt, debris, and other contaminants that can reduce their performance. It is vital to use only recommended solar panel cleaning methods and to avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals that can damage the panels.
Monitoring solar system performance
If you monitor your solar panels regularly, you can catch any issues or malfunctions early on, which can prevent long-term damage or early solar panel degradation. Additionally, monitoring helps you to identify any areas for improvement, allowing you to optimize your solar system's performance.
Protecting solar modules from extreme weather conditions
Extreme weather conditions can also take a toll on solar panels, so it's essential to protect them from the elements as much as possible. This can include installing windbreaks or covers, as well as choosing durable solar panel materials that can withstand harsh weather conditions.
Upgrading or replacing solar system components as needed
Over time, some parts of your solar system may degrade faster than others and require upgrading or replacement. Installing newer, more advanced solar components can help improve the performance of your solar panel system and increase its lifespan. Replacing worn-out parts can also help prevent damage to your solar panels and improve the overall operation of your setup.
Recap of the lifespan of solar panels
While solar panel degradation is an inevitable natural process, there are things you can do to mitigate it and ensure that your solar panels continue to function well for decades. In fact, most panels can endure far beyond the industry standard lifespan of 25-30 years if they receive proper care and maintenance.
The longevity of solar panels can be influenced by various factors such as the type of solar technology, equipment quality, environmental impacts, and panel placement. Moreover, regularly cleaning, monitoring, protecting against extreme weather, and upgrading or replacing solar components can also help prolong modules’ lifespan and minimize solar panel degradation over time. By adhering to these guidelines and best practices, homeowners can ensure that their panels continue to produce clean and renewable energy for years to come, thereby maximizing the benefits of solar power and safeguarding their investment.