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Lifespan of Solar PV Modules

There are plenty of things that get better with age – like cheeses, cast iron skillets, high-quality leather, and etc. However, this isnt the case with a lot of equipment you invest in. Whether it’s a car, tractor, or complex machinery, most machines have a finite useful life.

Though a fantastic long-term investment for many comapnies, business and bunglows, solar panels are no different in this regard. While deciding if solar is right for you, it’s important you understand their lifecycle. In this blog, we will go over how long you can expect your solar system to last, time’s effect on your panels, and what you can do to get the most out of your investment.

Depending on the company manufactured , solar panels’ performance can be guaranteed for 25 – 30 years, but it’s very possible that your panels will go on to produce electricity for longer than that. The first 25 to 30 years after your solar installation is considered the system’s useful life, but panels can still produce electricity for decades longer. In fact, the world’s first modern solar panel is still producing electricity at the ripe age of 60 !

What is a solar panel’s useful life? Just like a lot of other equipment, solar panels don’t perform at 100% for their entire life and then just stop working in year 30. Instead, solar panels, at a very slow rate, produce less electricity as they age. This process is called degradation.

Because of solar panel degradation, most panels’ production warranties change as they age. Manufacturers typically guarantee 90% of the panels’ production until the first ten years. After ten years, that percentage drops back to 80% for the remaining 15 – 20 years.

All solar panels slowly degrade over time, which means they’re producing less electricity from the same amount of sunlight. How and why does this happen? A variety of external factors (like weather) wear down on the panels and have a negative impact on their ability to produce electricity.

One way solar panel degradation happens is through microcracks that form in the silicon of the solar cells. These small cracks cause electrical connections to deteriorate, meaning there are fewer paths for those electrons from the sun to take, and thus less energy goes to your inverter and into your home, business, or firm. Other issues are junction box adhesion failures and discoloration.

Because there are a variety of ways panels can degrade, caused by a variety of factors, it’s a difficult problem to solve. Solar panel manufacturers are constantly evolving and coming up with ways to reduce that degradation rate so your panels can keep up their power output. But in the meantime, your panels are guaranteed to degrade at or below a specific rate, so you can rest assured your investment is a safe one.

There are many different factors that contribute to solar panel degradation, but many of them focus on something that’s pretty hard to control – the weather.

One common way microcracks form is through thermal cycling. When it’s warm, just about everything expands. When it’s cold, things contract. Solar panels aren’t immune to this, and it’s that constant back and forth that put them under strain and create those little cracks.

Similarly, strong winds can cause flexing of the panels – also known as a dynamic mechanical load. But as long as your solar system is installed by experts and you’re using panels of good quality, this shouldn’t be a major contributor to degradation. Extreme cold and hot weather, humidity, and snow and ice also slowly contribute to solar panel degradation, as do solar system components with different voltage potentials.

Another question we get is “does sunlight cause degradation?” – the very thing that makes solar panels tick! Thankfully, most solar panel manufacturers create panels with UV blockers that protect the panels from most damage, but yes – the sun itself does contribute to degradation.

In fact, your panels degrade at one of the highest rates just hours after installation when they’re first exposed to the sun and its UV rays. This is known as light-induced degradation (LID). Your panels can degrade 1 to 3% in this short amount of time, but after that, degradation slows way down.

PV modules may experience one or both of two forms of degradation: Potential Induced Degradation (PID) and Light Induced Degradation (LID). PID refers to degradation induced by high voltages. On the other hand, LID refers to degradation that occurs due to sunlight.

LID - Light Induced Degradation

PV modules experience degradation naturally without it being owing to the flow of electrons across p-n junctions within the module. Modules experience power loss rates of approximately 3% within the first year of usage. Thereafter, a phenomenon known as power stabilization is said to occur, which refers to lower levels of power loss in subsequent years of usage at rates typically around 0.8%. This indicates that the rates of degradation are most prominent initially. LID of a PV module refers to the power loss and other loss of performance of crystalline p-type boron doped silicon solar cells after the first few hours upon exposure to sunlight. LID typically varies between 1-3%. The degradation of cells by sunlight is highly dependent on the quality of the wafer manufactured and is the result of a defect known as “boron oxygen complex”. This defect occurs owing to oxygen being trapped in the silicon as part of the “Czochralski process” during manufacture.

PID- Potential Induced Degradation

The second form of degradation PID caused by voltages as high as 1000 V and above together with high temperatures and humidity. Furthermore, the accumulation of dirt and the degradation of glass can catalyse the process owing to the release of sodium ions. Modules that have experienced such degradation generally contain some black cells that are non-functional and found near the frame. This occurs due to a large flow of electrons through such cells, due to the differential in voltage across the pane.
The IEC standard 62804 created to assess the capability of PV modules to withstand high voltages and not experience any degradation as a result. The proposed method involves the subjection of PV modules to a DC voltage bias of magnitude of 1000 V at a humidity of 85% rH and a temperature of 60 ºC, for a period of 96 hours.

How to Extend Life of Solar PV Module ?

Just like a car only runs for a certain amount of miles or a piece of equipment starts to lose its touch after so many years, solar panel degradation is bound to happen. However, you’re still making a solid investment that is going to reduce your company’s overhead or your household’s monthly expenses.

But like regularly changing the oil in your car, are there ways you can extend the useful life of your solar panels?

 

Because solar panels don’t have any moving parts, there isn’t a whole lot you need to do. Your best bet is to plan for this before your system is installed. Even though solar panels are sturdy and built to withstand pressure – your panels could suffer a lot during a rough installation process.

You want to be sure that you’re working with certified industry experts that are going to install your system for the long run and with the utmost care, using high-quality panels and parts. This will go a long way for keeping your energy production high throughout – and even beyond – the system’s life expectancy.

Another factor you and your solar installer should consider when you’re designing your solar system is choosing a location. Try to avoid placing the panels near things that can cause physical damage, like the wind blowing trees and bushes against the panels, which may speed up degradation.

Though solar is a relatively care-free investment, periodic maintenance and cleaning can also help extend the lifespan of the solar panels. However, it’s imperative you work with products and companies that practice proper methods for cleaning and maintenance, as more harm than good could be done to your system.

For free consultation choosing right Solar PV partner contact Us Here.

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