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What is the lifetime of solar panels? We check!

There are many theories about what the  service life of solar panels is. Unfortunately, few of them actually cover. Solar panel technology is changing significantly, and with it the period of effective operation of solar cells.

What is the lifetime of solar panels? We check!

Previously, we heard the opinion that it is not worth investing in a photovoltaic installation, because its cells will wear out before it starts making money. However, nowadays completely different panels are produced, for which manufacturers give a much longer warranty. So how long will solar panels work?

The lifetime of photovoltaics and the quality of panels

In the last two decades, the photovoltaic industry has   significantly accelerated. People all over the world are eager to use renewable energy sources, and solar panels are one of the easiest ways to obtain green electricity. Of course, along with the demand for solar panels, the competition among manufacturers of this type of equipment has also increased. As a result, there were considerable differences in terms of product quality. We can still find panels that will be fully operational for only 10 years, after which they will gradually lose their efficiency. Fortunately, however, there is an increasing choice between good quality solar cells that will provide us with energy for a much longer time.

The manufacturers’ confidence in their product can be seen, for example, after the extended warranty period for the performance of the purchased panels. Currently, the standard is 25 years of protection from the manufacturer, which applies to the performance of the panels. Research has also confirmed the improvement of the quality of panels produced in the following years. In 2012, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tested this on nearly 2,000 solar panels. Based on the observations and measurements carried out by scientists, it was concluded that when the cells stop working at 100%, the annual decrease in efficiency is 0.8%.. Such data make us realize that investing in a photovoltaic installation is even more attractive. In addition, buyers can count on various forms of  financing .

What does the lifetime of photovoltaic panels depend on?

Even if we buy the best model of photovoltaic cells available, we must be aware that their lifetime also depends on other factors. It is assumed that for 25 years the panels can work almost at full capacity. At the end of this period, the yield should be at least 80% of the initial one. After this period, they slightly weaken with each subsequent year. Of course, this is not characteristic of every model. Increasingly, panels work without problems for up to 35 years. Their performance is influenced by atmospheric phenomena such as hailstorm. However, we are talking about really extreme conditions, because solid panels should be resistant to difficult weather conditions, such as a snow cap in winter or excessive sunlight in summer. Fortunately, Europe belongs to those parts of the world

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It should also be remembered that the panel is not only a surface that absorbs the sun’s rays. An inverter plays an important role as it converts the direct current generated by the fire into the alternating current that we use in our homes. This is an extremely important and intensive process, therefore the lifetime of the inverters may be shorter. Nevertheless, the warranty period for them is usually 10 years. Some photovoltaic installations are designed in such a way that the current from several cells goes to one inverter. It is then subjected to a particularly high load. However, the latest solutions are increasingly based on microwave ovens. They are mounted directly on the panel, so each solar has its own inverter. This not only reduces the cost of replacing individual components, but also extends their service life.

How to extend the lifetime of photovoltaic panels?

Although solar panels are virtually maintenance-free devices, it is worth remembering that proper maintenance can improve their efficiency. For this reason, it is worth monitoring the condition of our installation. This can be done in several ways. One of them is checking performance, e.g. by reading from the inverter. A convenient solution is a special smartphone application that allows you to monitor the status of the panels. We also have access to historical data, thanks to which we can calculate a possible decrease in performance. The cabling should also be checked. Each damage can cause a decrease in the amount of energy produced, so it is worth doing it regularly, e.g. once a year. Cables between panels are particularly vulnerable to failure, as they can be damaged, among others, by by frozen, standing water.

In summary,  many manufacturers ensure that the panels will work efficiently for 25 years, as evidenced by the manufacturer’s warranty . With proper operation and, above all, maintenance,  we can count on the full performance of the devices for up to 35 years . Over time, the efficiency of photovoltaic panels will decline, but the losses due to a degeneration rate of 0.5% per year are almost imperceptible. Therefore, in order to maintain the received power, it is not necessary to replace the entire installation, but e.g. to install an additional cell in the already existing installation. We should also remember that the technology of obtaining energy from renewable sources is constantly developing, so we can count on the fact that over time we will have better quality equipment.

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