Service life of solar panels

The purchase and installation of solar panels is an investment that pays off over a certain period of time. While the initial cost may seem high, the monthly energy bill savings, independence from centralized energy sources, and tax incentives certainly bring down the overall cost of a solar power system. However, for this to happen, a certain time of effective and trouble-free operation must pass.

What affects the durability of solar panels

Solar panels have a number of advantages and disadvantages . Solar panels are durable, can operate in extreme temperatures and continue to provide the required amount of energy even after many years of use. Their longevity is primarily due to the fact that solar panels have no moving parts and rarely break, usually only being damaged externally, for example due to poor installation or inclement weather. Therefore, the service life of solar panels is one of their advantages, which makes the installation of such structures attractive. But there are many factors that affect the service life of solar panels – this is the influence of ultraviolet radiation, weather conditions (temperature changes, overheating of panels), installation features, quality of service. And if the photocells themselves practically do not wear out, other parts of the structure can be damaged. For example, clouding of the layer between the PV module and the protective glass, destruction of the sealing film or the rear surface of the module, etc., can lead to a decrease in efficiency.

Therefore, the question of the expected duration of operation of the panels arises quite often among the owners of solar installations. It is difficult to estimate in advance your investment and the cost of a solar panel if it is not clear how long the solar panels will generate enough energy. To do this, you need to study many nuances related to their technical parameters, features of work, operating conditions.

What are the standard warranties for solar panels

The performance (power) warranty offered by most manufacturers is 20–25 years. There are manufacturers who promise that the life of the panels (their effective performance) will be 30 years. That is, a standard solar panel can serve for a long time. But this does not mean at all that after this period of time, solar panels will stop producing electricity. This only says that, with proper operation, after 25-30 years, energy production will decrease somewhat, that is, the efficiency of the solar panel will decrease.

Most reputable solar panel manufacturers claim that their panels will deliver at least 80% of their rated power during their lifetime or warranty period. For example, a 300W 300W solar panel must be able to generate a minimum of 240-250W before the warranty expires. There are manufacturers that offer a 30 year warranty claiming that their solar panels will provide 85-87% efficiency during the warranty period.

In addition to performance, there is also a guarantee for the quality of workmanship (hardware) or product warranty (from the English. Product warranty). This type of warranty covers various types of manufacturing defects, manufacturing defects such as a defective frame or a broken junction box. In any case, the warranty periods typical for solar panels are clearly longer than for other devices in the energy industry, averaging 10 to 11 years. This is quite a sufficient period for contacting the support service or even replacing certain structural components.

There are warranty periods and longer, for example, the well-known American brand manufacturer SunPower gives a guarantee for its products against breakdowns up to 25 years.

Many manufacturing brands give a double, stepwise guarantee: a maximum percentage of capacity of 90-95% in the first 10-12 years, and a slightly lower performance of 80-82% in the next 15-20 years of the solar panel. But the most common option today is a smooth, gradual decrease in equipment performance over time, which is expressed as a straight-line relationship.

What you need to know about the life of solar panels – conclusions

  • The longer the solar panel works, the more electricity it can generate and, accordingly, the more it pays off, and each kWh generated by it will cost less. Therefore, the durability of a solar system is an important economic factor in this industry.
  • Solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.
  • Over the course of their service life, the panels slowly but degrade, that is, they gradually begin to generate less and less electricity.
  • Different solar panels have different lifetimes. Of great importance here is the brand manufacturer, high-quality components and equipment for the solar system, the class and type of the panel.
  • Externally, photomodules may be similar, but differ significantly in characteristics. This affects their service life and, accordingly, the payback of the entire system. For example, class A batteries are subject to the least wear, while cells made of single-crystal silicon are more durable than polycrystalline ones. Another example. Under normal conditions, crystalline panels can withstand extreme temperatures and cold for more than 20 years. Under similar conditions, the service life of thin-film panels is approximately 3-4 times lower.

Manufacturers understand how important the life of solar panels is. Therefore, responsible brands are constantly working to increase this indicator using new technologies. For example, the well-known German manufacturer of photovoltaic systems Solarwatt (Germany) today offers a unique option – a 30-year warranty not only on power (up to 87.5%), but also on the product (manufacturing warranty).

As solar energy develops more and more around the world, it is likely that a 30-year warranty will soon become the standard for most manufacturing companies. If this happens, then the cost of its production will decrease, according to experts, by about 10% for the facility. For consumers, these are, of course, pleasant prospects that manufacturers and scientists are working on today.

Rest assured that your solar panels will certainly offset the costs and cover your electricity consumption for decades, but it is important to understand the rate of degradation.

We will continue the topic of solar panels effective lifespan in future posts and talk about what degradation of solar panels is, whether all panels are affected by it, why it happens and whether it is possible to minimize its consequences. Consider an equally important topic – how to extend the life of solar panels and take care of the system so that it gives the maximum return, which means it saves you money.

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