Various things, such as wine or cheese or 401ks, get better with age. Unfortunately, it is not the same for solar. They match various investments such as cars or equipment in this aspect. Having said that, solar panels are still the best investments that you can as home or business owners.
When you decide to buy solar panels, it is important to understand their lifecycle. In this article, we’ll look at solar panels’ lifecycle and various maintenance practices you can keep in mind to extend their lifespan. Let’s get started.
Solar Panels' Lifespan
Solar panels’ lifespan mostly depends on the manufacturer, as well as the type. They have a guaranteed output of 25-30 years. However, most solar panels continue to produce electricity after this duration elapses.
The first 25 to 30 years are known as ‘useful life’ duration. However, after this period, they still generate electricity. In fact, the 60 years old world’s first solar panel is still generating electricity.
Solar Panels' Useful Life
What is ‘solar panel’s useful’ years? Generally, solar panels do not perform at 100% during their entire lifetime. Instead, solar modules produce less electricity at a slow rate as they age. This process is known as degradation.
Due to this process, manufacturers offer warranties that change with time. Typically, the manufacturer guarantees that your solar panels will produce energy at 90% for the first ten years. The production then reduces to 80% for the next 15-20 years.
Once this useful life duration elapses, the solar panels continue to produce electricity. However, depending on your financial and energy goals, you may decide to augment the production by replacing or adding a few solar panels.
What is a Solar Panel Degradation?
As mentioned above, solar panels lose their energy productivity slowly over time. As a result, they produce less electricity from exposure to the same amount of sunlight. External factors such as weather causing wear and tear can lead to degradation, affecting their ability to produce electricity.
The formation of microcracks in the silicon cells causes degradation. As a result, the electrical connections deteriorate, causing fewer paths for the sun’s electrons. Therefore, less energy reaches the inverter. Discoloration, as well as junction box adhesion failures, can also lead to solar panels degradation.
Because there are many ways and causes of solar panel degradation, this is a challenging issue to address. As research and technology continue into solar energy, there is hope that manufacturers will address the problem. Though the solar panels have a guaranteed degradation duration, they still make a worthwhile investment.
Factors Contributing to Solar Panel Degradation
The leading cause of solar panel degradation is the weather. Mostly, small cracks in the PV modules form due to thermal cycling. Thermal cycling refers to the expansion and contraction that occurs when it’s hot or cold, respectively. Solar panels experience thermal cycling straining them, leading to cracks formation.
Another factor that can lead to this problem is strong winds which lead to solar panels flexing. It is advisable for home and business owners to use professional solar panel installers to avoid this problem. Solar systems with different voltage potentials can also contribute to degradation.
Additionally, extreme heat or cold, snow and humidity are also factors that lead to solar panel degradation. Notably, most manufacturers produce solar panels containing UV blockers that prevent the sun from causing damage. Solar panels can experience a high degradation rate of 1-3% after installation. It is referred to as LID or light-induced degradation. However, this degradation rate reduces.
What is the Degradation Rate?
It is normal for solar panels to degrade. However, on average, solar panels degrade at 1% annually. This rate is covered by the manufacturers’ warranty. If the degradation rate is higher, it shows the solar panels are faulty and need replacement.
Generally, manufacturers expect solar panels to lose about 10% of production in the first 10 years. In the next 15-20 years, solar panels can have 80% production. However, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panels after the year 2000 experienced a 0.4% annual degradation. This reduced rate allows home and business owners to continue enjoying their solar investment.
Can I Make Solar Panels to Last Longer?
Now that solar panels degradation is inevitable, most homeowners ask if it is possible to extend the solar panels’ lifespan. There are various steps you can take to do this. These are:
Check Solar Panels Regularly
Solar panels require little to no maintenance because they have no moving parts. However, you can have your installer or solar experts perform general and regular maintenance. Regularly examining the PV system can show potential problems such as exposed wires, loose racking, and any other concerns.
It’s worth noting that if you check the system, you can void the manufacturer’s warranty when you cause any damage. It is advisable to have a professional inspect the PV system to avoid this issue.
Apart from looking at the solar panels, the solar expert can also inspect other equipment such as the inverter. Most inverters last between 10-15 years, meaning they need replacement at some point during the PV lifespan. Checking the racking ensures the solar arrays are securely held in place.
Keep the Panels Clear of Damaging Material and Debris
During solar panel installation, the installers should ensure there are no obstacles, such as large trees that can damage the solar panels. Tree branches can cast shade onto the panels, which can cause damage. They can also fall on the solar panels. Reducing physical damage to the solar panels helps with increasing their lifespan.
Solar panels are a worthy investment. They can last for several decades, guaranteeing you free energy. When you hire solar professionals to check your system regularly, you avoid potential problems affecting their energy production ability. Solar panels should also be professionally installed to prevent flexing leading to microcracks. The longer you use solar panels, the more money you save. Contact Dynamic Slr to install solar panels and enjoy the immense benefits of the energy.