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Do Solar Panels Degrade Over Time?

August 24, 2023

Property owners often ask, do solar panels degrade over time, and how does this affect their performance? Understanding this topic can ensure that you make the right decision when it comes to a solar investment. For example, you’ll know what power production and cost savings to expect with each passing year. You can also anticipate when you might want to replace those panels.

The answer to the question, do solar panels degrade over time, is yes. Most lose efficiency at 0.5% to 1% annually. In turn, most panels are 10% to 20% less effective after 20 years.

This is a very quick explanation of how solar panels might degrade over time. Also, it’s vital to remember that degradation rates vary according to panel quality, weather, and other factors. In turn, your panels might work more or less effectively over the years.

If you’re ready to call a solar panel installation contractor near you, check out some added details about panel degradation first. This information will ensure you know what to expect and can discuss the best panels for your property.

do solar panels degrade over time

How and Why Do Solar Panels Degrade Over Time?

Solar panels do degrade over time, as said. This degradation is often referred to as “solar panel degradation” or “module degradation.” It’s a natural process that occurs due to exposure to environmental conditions, temperature fluctuations, ultraviolet radiation, and other stresses.

The most common type of solar panel degradation is called “linear degradation.” This is when the efficiency of a solar panel decreases at a fixed rate over its lifespan. The industry-standard linear degradation rate is usually around 0.5% to 1% per year.

This means that after 25 to 30 years, a solar panel’s efficiency could degrade to around 75% to 80% of its original efficiency. There are a few key factors that contribute to solar panel degradation. Be sure to discuss these with your solar panel installation contractor when choosing panels for your property.

  • High temperatures can accelerate the degradation process. Solar panels exposed to extreme heat over a prolonged period might experience a faster decline in efficiency.
  • Solar panels are exposed to UV radiation from the sun, which can cause materials to degrade over time. The protective materials and coatings on the solar panels can be affected.
  • Exposure to weather elements such as rain, snow, wind, and pollutants can contribute to degradation over time.
  • Physical stresses like hail, heavy snow loads, or improper installation can damage solar panels and lead to degradation.
  • Over time, chemical reactions can occur within the solar cells and materials, leading to performance loss.

Do Solar Panels Need Maintenance?

Solar panels are generally low maintenance compared to many other energy systems. However, some attention can maximize their performance and ensure they operate efficiently and effectively over their lifespan. Note some key maintenance considerations for solar panels. Also, remember that your installation contractor can explain needed maintenance in more detail.

Regular Cleaning

Dust, dirt, pollen, bird droppings, and other debris can accumulate on the surface of solar panels, reducing their efficiency. Cleaning the panels periodically, especially if you live in an area with low rainfall, can help maintain optimal performance. However, it’s important to use proper cleaning techniques and tools to avoid damaging the panels or voiding warranties.

Inspection

Regular visual inspections can help identify any physical damage, cracks, or signs of wear. If you notice any damage, it’s important to address it promptly to prevent further degradation. Also, many solar panel installation companies offer inspections even if they didn’t install the panels! Investing in their professional expertise can ensure you spot damage before it becomes severe.

Trimming Vegetation

If there are trees or shrubs that cast shadows on your solar panels, trim them to prevent shading. Even partial shading can significantly reduce the overall energy production of a solar panel system. Additionally, remember that trees can drop twigs, leaves, moss, and other debris. These cover panels can reduce efficiency. In turn, ensure you keep branches trimmed and pruned as needed.

Monitoring Performance

Some solar panel systems come with monitoring tools that allow you to track the performance of individual panels. Monitoring can help identify any drop in performance, allowing you to take action if needed. Your installation contractor can explain how your monitor works and when to use it.

Checking Inverters

Inverters are crucial components of solar panel systems. These convert the direct current (DC) produced by the panels into usable alternating current (AC) electricity. Regularly checking inverters for proper operation and any error messages is important for system efficiency.

a solar panel racking system

Sealing and Weatherproofing

Ensure that all seals, mounts, and connectors are properly sealed and weatherproofed. This prevents water from entering and damaging the system components. Check these seals regularly, as weatherproofing materials break down over time. Replacing them as needed ensures maximum protection for your panels.

Snow Removal

If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, remove snow from the panels as needed. Ensure you check them after a snowstorm especially! Keeping them clear of snow ensures they generate electricity once the sun comes out. Also, removing heavy snow protects against damage.

How Long Do Solar Panels Actually Last?

The lifespan of solar panels can vary depending on several factors. These include the quality of the panels, manufacturing process, environmental conditions, and maintenance. However, most solar panels are designed to have a useful life of around 25 to 30 years or more. To better understand how panels perform in that time, check out some key points:

  • Many solar panel manufacturers provide warranties that guarantee performance over a specified period. The most common warranties are for 25 years. These typically guarantee that the panels will maintain at least 80% of their original power output after 25 years.
  • The quality of the solar panels plays a significant role in their longevity. Higher-quality panels with better materials tend to have longer lifespans.
  • As mentioned earlier, solar panels degrade over time due to various environmental factors. The industry-standard linear degradation rate is 0.5% to 1% per year.
  • Proper maintenance can help extend the lifespan of solar panels. Regular cleaning, inspections, and addressing any issues promptly can contribute to the panels’ longevity.
  • The location and climate where the solar panels are installed can influence their lifespan. Extreme weather conditions, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to pollutants can impact the panels’ performance and durability.
  • Solar panel technology is continuously advancing. Newer panels might incorporate better materials, coatings, and design features that can enhance their durability and lifespan.
  • The quality of the installation also matters. Proper installation techniques, including secure mounting and proper wiring, can contribute to the longevity of the system.

It’s important to note that solar panels typically continue to generate electricity even after 20 or 30 years. However, their efficiency will continue to degrade. Also, the rate of degradation may accelerate in the later years.

A Word From Our Solar Crew

Solar Savings Calculator is happy to answer the question, do solar panels degrade? If you’re ready to enjoy clean, green solar energy, call our solar panel installation contractors. We’ll explain how solar works and prepare a FREE installation quote. Solar is an excellent investment for virtually any property, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our crew today!

 

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