Solar panels are a long-term and eco-friendly investment, and they are a common sight in today’s architecture. Those who choose to install residential solar panels are often looking to invest in a technology that puts more money in their pocket over a lengthy amount of time. So how much do we know about whether solar panels withstand the true test of time?
Currently, many manufacturers extend a guarantee that panels will survive up to 25 years of life. But how are solar panel lifespan estimates made?
The Test of (Simulated) Time
A good amount of projecting can be done based on modern testing tactics and the current technology and hardware standards put in place to assess solar panel performance. Expected operating lifespan is tested through high mechanical loading and exposing solar panels to high temperatures and extreme environments to mimic what the solar panels will actually go through while in use over the course of many years.
An interesting piece of trivia to apply to these tests and projections is the fact that the world’s first modern solar panel is still up and running after 60 years.
One important thing to understand is that solar panels degrade minutely over time, so degradation rate is a factor in estimating the effectiveness of a solar panel over its lifetime.
The rate of solar panel power output has been shown to have a typical degradation rate of 0.5 to 1% per year. The degradation rate of panels can be expected to be less than 0.5% for panels made prior to 2000, and less than 0.4% for panels manufactured after 2000. This means that panels made today should produce at least 92% of their original electrical output after a whopping 20 years.Consumers should check with specific manufacturers on their unique warranties to see whether or not they guarantee specific electrical rates of production during the solar panel aging process.
Causes of Degradation
Solar panels may degrade for a handful of reasons. If panels are subjected to environments where there are cycles of heavy wind and snow, the rate of degradation increases. The same can be said for solar panels that are installed in desert climates. This can be attributed to the high levels of UV exposure seen in those areas.
The life of solar panels can be extended and maintained by taking care to avoid physical strain such as water and close foliage proximity that can flood or scratch the panels over time. Maintenance is also important along with protection from these extreme weather conditions. Sheltering panels from severe winds is also an important facet of positioning solar panels for the best long-term performance.
By considering your climate and being vigilant about solar panel maintenance, you shouldn’t have any trouble protecting this money-saving investment and keeping your solar panels in good working order for years to come.