How Long Do Solar Panels Really Last

Environmental degradation and energy crises have been one of the biggest issues that started with industrial revolution and today like other developing nations, Pakistan has been suffering from these problems. With the discovery of photovoltaic effect and invention of the solar panels, it was sure that if there is a way to eliminate energy crises and fulfill global energy demands while keeping the environment safe from carbon emissions is using renewable energy. Now Solar panel technology has become one of the best sources of renewable energy as it is convenient, cheap to install and last a really long time. The expected life expectancy of solar panels provided by most of the companies is around 25 years. It means that you are making an investment that will go a really long way. There are certain factors that affect the life span of the solar panels but you can continue to keep using them after the 25-year time period. The only difference will be a comparatively decreased absorption of sunlight. In this blog we are going to discuss the degradation rate and everything else that you need to know about solar panel life period and replacements.

What is Solar Panel Degradation Rate?

Over the long run, Solar Panels lose their capacity to absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity because of components like a more sweltering climate and the regular decrease in chemical composition inside the board. This is the thing that is referred to as the “degradation rate” or “debasement rate”. It means that the degradation rate and the quality of solar panel are inversely proportional, meaning a better solar panel has a lower degradation rate. The solar plate degradation rate varies from panel to panel and from company to company. While you are getting your solar system, do remember to check the degradation rate of the panel you are installing.

Solar panels can be divided into three tiers on the basis of their degradation rate which are as follows:

Panel type Degradation rate Reduction over 25 years Original output after 25 years
Tier 1 0.30% 6.96% 93.04%
Tier 2 0.50% 11.33% 88.67%
Tier 3 0.80% 17.53% 82.47%

Tier 1 solar panels have the least reduction rate and their production capacity is decreased by only a small percentage of 6.96%. The tier 2 solar modules are also substantially good and they offer a good production capacity after 25-year span. However, the tier 3 solar plates degrade by a massive 0.80% rendering their production capacity to reduce a lot but they are still usable after the 25-year span. Tier 1 solar panels are very expensive so we recommend investing in Tier 2 solar panels such as Canadian Solar, JA Solar, because they are affordable and also offer excellent performance even after 25 years.

Can Solar Panels Expire Before The Time?

Yes, they can but only if there is some sort of manufacturer defect, damage or any other such issue. However, other than that solar panels do not expire as they can keep on generating electricity with subsequent degradation in sunlight absorption every year. One cannot deny the fact that solar panels can still get damaged and become utterly useless in some cases. Recurrent extreme weather or hailstorm can break the solar panels by creating micro cracks. Latest solar panels are resistive to micro cracks but they are not completely safe from them. Another reason can be sudden changes in the weather that can cause rapid contraction and expansion in the material that compose the solar panels. Similarly, if the seal protection of solar modules break, water damage can cause them to stop working. Most of the companies cover such kinds of faults under their 25-year warranty.

When Should You Consider Replacing Your Panels?

If after the life expectancy period of the solar panel, you notice a significant reduction in the electricity production of your system that does not fulfill the demands of your house, you will need to change your panels. For instance, your 20 kWh system is producing 15 kWh electricity and there is no fault, debris or weather limitations then it probably means your system has degraded a lot and needs to be changed. This is one of the reasons why we recommend getting a system that is more than what you require so your investment can benefit you for more than the expected time. When you install a Solar System, you also get a monitoring app with it that shows you all the data and can be used to tell the changes in your system’s production.

Do Other Components Of Your Solar System Need To Be Changed?

It is true that solar panels do not need any major maintenance charges or efforts to be spent for at least 25 years, but they are not the only equipment that is being used in the system. There are solar batteries, inverters and mounting structure that make most of the system in addition to PV modules. These components may require more frequent maintenance or need to be replaced earlier than the solar modules.

Solar Batteries

Solar Batteries are used to store excess electricity produced by a solar system. These batteries usually have a life span of about 10 years and start to degrade after that so you might need to change them to keep getting the optimum results.

Solar Inverters

Solar Inverters also have life expectancy similar to solar batteries, 10 – 15 years and may need to be replaced after that because these are the components that perform the operation of converting DC to AC and maintaining stable voltage. Because of their heavy operations, they usually need replacement during the lifetime of the solar system and cannot be expected to keep working after their given lifespan.

Mounting Structure

The mounting structure of the solar panels may also need to be replaced as they are drilled into the roof in the concrete blocks made on the roof for installation of solar panels. In a nut shell, they being on the roof, face the extreme weather conditions and so may need to be replaced. However, in most cases they take more than 20 years to be degraded to the extent to need a replacement.

Conclusion

Solar Panels have a warranted lifetime of 25 years but they can keep producing electricity even after that. The only difference is that their electricity production is reduced depending upon their degradation rate. You will need to decide if your panels need to be replaced or not. For this purpose, you need to see if they are fulfilling your electricity demands or not. If they are, then there is essentially no need to make a replacement. Similarly, if you have maintained your panels and they do not have microcracks or broken plates then you can keep on using them. Always make sure to keep a close check on your system’s production and see if they need to be cleaned occasionally to ensure maximum life duration.

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