WHAT IS THE LIFE CYCLE OF PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS ?
The vast majority of people who are considering installing their own solar system are wondering about the life cycle of solar panels. How long will they last? Are all modules covered by a 30-year warranty? Will their effectiveness decline every year?
In this article, we present the factors that have an influence on their effectiveness.
One of the important factors when choosing modules is the type of photovoltaic cell. The development of a solar power plant and its service life largely depend on this. All the most common types of solar panels are based on semiconductor solar cells, namely:
- Amorphous (thin layer)
- The most durable are monocrystals. Indeed, after 25 years of operation, their efficiency decreases by 2–3%, and their total service life can reach 50 years.
- Polycrystalline ones are not much inferior to monocrystalline ones and can serve for more than 20 years without great losses.
- Modules made of amphora silicon, which are presented in the form of a thin film, differ in terms of service life depending on the production process. The panels of the first generation will quickly reduce the declared indicators, and after 5-7 years the efficiency may drop to 15%, and the panels of the second generation will work flawlessly for up to 20 years.
Several years ago, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study on the rate of “photovoltaic degradation” on a sample of 2,000 solar power plants. According to the study, on average, a solar panel loses about half a percent (0.5%) of its efficiency per year. This means that after a 25-year warranty period, your solar panel will operate at a consistently high efficiency, 88% of the original. However, not all panels will lose 0.5% efficiency per year. Some solar modules that have been operating in the sun for more than 30 years are reported to be more efficient than their documentation.
Manufacturers understand how important the lifetime of solar panels is. Therefore, responsible brands are constantly working to increase this indicator with the help of new technologies. For example, a German manufacturer of photovoltaic systems today offers a unique opportunity – a 30-year warranty not only for power (up to 87.5%), but also for the product (manufacturing guarantee).
As solar power grows around the world, it is likely that a 30-year warranty will soon become the norm for most manufacturing companies. If this happens, the cost of its manufacture will decrease, according to experts, by about 10% per installation. For consumers, of course, these are great prospects that manufacturers and scientists are working on today.
Taking into account the factors above, the question “How long will my solar panels last?” ultimately is not the most relevant. Because most systems will pay off within the first ten years and provide their owner with clean energy for decades. Obviously, the question is “What are the expected costs of maintaining and replacing parts of a solar power plant? “- would be more interesting to consumers.
The situation is completely different with the inverter . The average service life of an inverter is valid for 10 to 15 years. However, its efficiency does not gradually decrease, as with the solar panel, but its operation can stop overnight, due to normal obsolescence. This is generally the case with inverters called “central”. However, at the same time there is a good alternative: microinverters. These are installed on each solar panel and their lifespan is longer than that of traditional inverters (up to 25 years).
A photovoltaic plant can operate efficiently for many decades. This durability is due to the fact that solar panels have no moving parts – they rarely break from the inside, and, as a rule, minor damage can only occur due to extreme weather conditions.
A solar panel that is subject to heavy storms or constant snowfall from year to year may lose some of its structural integrity.
Dirt is the most common factor affecting the lifespan of a solar panel. This is because tiny dust particles begin to collect on the surface of the solar panel, reducing the amount of sunlight the solar cells receive. To avoid heavy contamination of the panels, install the entire system away from trees and at an angle to avoid dust accumulation.
Now you know
Typically, solar panels have a warranty period of about 25 years. However, this does not mean that they stop generating power after the warranty period has expired – it just decreases the power performance. As a result, solar panels continue to work for many decades, and with proper care and a favorable climate, they are not affected by weather and other factors, and do not lose efficiency.