How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels typically last between 20 and 30 years. However, this number depends on many factors, including the solar panel model, the quality of the installation, and the weather conditions.

This article will discuss some of the most critical factors that affect solar panel longevity. We will also provide an estimate for how long solar panels typically last.

Why Do Solar Panels Have a Lifespan?

Why Do Solar Panels Have a Lifespan?
Why Do Solar Panels Have a Lifespan by CNET

Solar panels suffer from what is known as “power fade” or “power degradation.” Power fade is when a solar panel produces less power over time.

This degradation happens due to several factors such as:

1. Light-induced Degradation (LID)

LID occurs when the sunlight breaks down the crystalline cells in the solar panel. This natural process happens over time and can last days or over a week.

2. Direct Light-induced Degradation (DLID)

DLID is caused by the sunlight directly hitting the solar panel during the initial setup. This can cause the electronic parts to warp or buckle from the heat. The DLID effect can last several hours.

3. UV Light-induced Degradation (UVID)

UVID happens when the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight first hit the solar panel. This causes the silicon oxide on the panel’s surface to create a layer of boron dioxide, which reduces the panels’ efficiency and lifespan.

4. Potential-induced degradation (PID)

PID is caused by the voltage difference between different solar panel components, such as the encapsulated solar cells and the front glass surface.

This electrical potential difference can cause stray currents, which reduces the efficiency of the solar panel.

This phenomenon can happen when there is a build-up of dust or dirt on the panel, which acts as an insulator. When this happens, the solar panel will produce up to 30%.

5. Environment Exposure Degradation

Solar panels are also affected by their environment. For example, if the panels are installed in an area with high humidity, they will corrode faster.

Windy conditions can also cause the panels to vibrate, leading to damage over time.

High temperature, snowfall, hail, heavy rain, and even bird droppings can also shorten the lifespan of solar panels.

Solar Panel Degradation Rate

Solar panels have a degradation rate of about 0.5% per year. This means that the solar panel will produce 0.5% less power every year than it did the year before.

For example, if a solar panel has a power output of 1000 watts with a 0.5% degradation rate, it will produce 995 watts the following year. However, the year after that, it will produce only 990.025 watts, and so on till the panel loses a significant amount of its power output that it becomes inefficient and needs to be replaced.

What Affects the Solar Panels Degradation Rate?

1. Quality

Solar panels quality
Solar panels quality by GreenMatch

The quality of the solar panel is the most critical factor in determining its lifespan. The solar panel components and the material used will affect how long it lasts.

Solar panels manufactured by reputable companies will use higher quality materials designed to last longer.

On the other hand, cheap solar manufacturers will use lower-quality materials to save more money. This will result in a shorter lifespan for their products under the same conditions.

2. Assembly

Solar panels assembly
Solar panels assembly by Solar Power World

If the solar panel is not assembled correctly, it will be more susceptible to damage and shorter lifespan.

The alignment of the solar cells, tightness of the connections, and overall build quality will all affect how long a solar panel lasts.

Assembling the solar panel correctly makes sure all the components are working well together, improving the panel’s performance and increasing its lifespan.

Solar panels not assembled correctly are more likely to have electrical problems, which can lead to a fire.

A poorly assembled solar panel is also more likely to break when hit by hail or high winds.

3. Storage & installation

Solar panel installation
Solar panel installation by Solar Engineering Group

Solar panels are often manufactured overseas and then shipped to the customer. The solar panels can be cracked or scratched if not correctly stored during shipping.

Additionally, if the solar installer didn’t connect the system properly, the panels may not work as intended and have a shorter lifespan.

4. Maintenance

Solar panel maintenance
Solar panel maintenance by Invincible Energy

Solar panels need to be regularly cleaned to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that can build up on the surface.

If the solar panels are not cleaned, the build-up can reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the surface, lowering the panel’s power output.

Additionally, if solar panels are not properly maintained, the electrical connections can corrode and break down over time.

5. Weather Conditions

Solar panel weather conditions
Solar panel weather conditions by Azocleantech

Solar panels are exposed to the elements and varying weather conditions, which shorten their lifespan.

Excessive heat and cold can damage the solar cells, while wind and rain can loosen the connections and cause the panel to break.

Snowfall and hail can also crack or shatter the solar panel’s glass surface. Bird droppings can also damage the solar panel’s surface and reduce its power output.

How to Increase Solar Panel Lifespan?

There are a few things that can be done to increase the lifespan of solar panels:

1. Opt for High-Quality Solar Panels

The most crucial factor in determining the lifespan of solar panels is the quality of the product.

Solar panels made with high-quality materials and components last longer than those made with lower-grade materials.

When shopping for solar panels, be sure to research the manufacturer and read customer reviews to ensure that you are getting a high-quality product.

2. Work with a Reputable Solar Installer

A solar panel system is only as good as the installation.

Working with a reputable and experienced solar installer will ensure that the system is installed correctly and the panels are not damaged during installation.

Be sure to research when choosing a solar installer and read customer reviews to find a company you can trust.

3. Regularly Check the Solar System

Once the solar panel system is installed, it is essential to regularly check the system to ensure that it is working correctly.

Inspect the solar panels and look for any cracks or signs of damage.

Also, check the electrical connections to ensure that they are tight and not corroded.

If you notice any problems, contact the solar installer or manufacturer to fix the issue.

4. Keep the Solar Panels Clean

It is essential to regularly clean the solar panels to remove any debris that can build up on the surface. Cleaning the panels will help increase their power output and extend their lifespan.

Be sure to use a soft cloth or brush when cleaning the panels and avoid using any harsh chemicals, so you don’t damage the surface.

  • Nichole Hutt

    Hi, I'm Nichole! 👋
    I always felt close to nature during my childhood. Preferring to spend my time alone playing with backyard animals at my family farm. 🐷
    In 1997, I attained my electrical engineering degree at the Oregon Institute Of Technology, graduating top of my class. Several years later, I qualified for my M.S. in Renewable Energy Engineering, also at OIT. 🎓

    Combining my love for nature and passion for engineering, I have worked for solar panel manufacturer's in my state, most notably as a PV solar engineer for Zamp Solar.

    I founded RenewableSystems to share my knowledge and expertise in the renewable energy field and help save this beautiful little planet of ours. ☀️🌎

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