Sun’s energy is captivating, and countries all over the globe are trying to harness it organically.
One such way is by utilizing solar panels, which were once considered a niche market and a fancy tryst. Still, the latest developments are presenting it as an alternative to fossils.
When it comes to solar panel production, German leads the chart with China and Japan following it in production. In 2019, the global grid-connected solar capacity and off-grid PV stood at 580.1 GW and 3.4 GW, respectively.
For the general people, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the longevity and the type of solar panels on offer. To ensure that our readers understand more about the subject, we have curated this article.
Types of solar panels
The solar industry primarily uses three types of solar panels –
- Monocrystalline solar panels – the most expensive, but the purest and the most efficient panels.
- Polycrystalline solar panels – Cheaper than monocrystalline but can trap sufficient energy.
- Amorphous solar panels – Also known as Thin Film solar panels, these are the cheapest and the least efficient but can be implemented like glass, and opens up new avenues for solar panel usage.
What is solar panel degradation?
The degradation process of solar panels varies according to their type and its surrounding environment. An NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) analysis reports that high-quality panels depreciate by 0.3 % per annum, whereas the lower quality ones can go down by 0.8 %.
If we consider the former, at the beginning of year 2, your panel will run at 99.7 % efficiency. After the end of 30 years, it will operate at 81 % of the original capacity.
Why do solar panels degrade?
Solar panels, even though considered extremely durable, are prone to depreciation over time. The reasons include –
- Climatic factors such as thermal cycling, damp heat, UV exposure, and humidity freeze.
- Lack of maintenance can be a prominent factor. A solar panel with better care performs ages far better than those left unkempt.
- Transformerless inverters are ungrounded and pose a higher risk of voltage shock and lower output due to excess sodium.
- Usage of cheaper materials to curtail the price. Manufacturers often opt for thinner frames to cut down on aluminium content, but these are not too well equipped to sustain the entire weight for long.
- Thinner busbars can lead to solder bond failure. It has forced manufacturers to add more of them together to reduce the chances of full cell breakage.
Standard warranty that accompanies solar panels
With time and innovation, the quality of solar panels has improved a lot.
Most premium brands in this business ship their products with up to 30-years warranty, which is far more than their energy payback period or EPBT. EPBT refers to the period a piece of equipment takes to pay back the clean energy required to produce it. It was at six months in 2010, and with improved processes, it has cut down to half of that today.
The average lifespan of a solar panel
The warranty period is usually the assurance that the product will run at 80 % efficiency after it ends. In theory, a solar panel can run smoothly for around 40 years, but it’s reducing efficiency can propel you to switch earlier. An NREL study concludes that 80 % of them live beyond their warranty span.
How long do solar batteries last?
The average span of a solar battery is 15 years. It demands optimal temperature for maximum efficiency. If you are living in a colder area, you can keep it outdoors whereas you must prefer a garage to store it for humid conditions. There are many other factors, such as its type, charging habits, and others, that can impact the battery life.
Tips to extend the lifespan of the solar panels
Like with any other technology-based gizmo, solar panels too demand care and maintenance. If you are doing that, your grid is likely to perform well for the next 35-40 years. It is hard to say that for most other tech-based products in the market.
Unless it suffers any physical damage because of any unwanted event or harsh climate, regular maintenance should be fruitful in expanding its lifespan. Here are some tips that can help them last longer –
1. Replace its inverter every ten years
When you are out to buy solar panels, you will find most manufacturers offering a 10-year warranty on inverters (grid-tied) with an additional option to double it. In a real-life scenario, most people change their solar grid inverters once every 10-15 years. So investing in a more extended warranty can be a smart move and enable you to get new ones at a fraction of their cost.
For off-grid models, the warranty is much shorter at 1-5 years. Manufacturers let you avail extensions up to 10 years. The off-grid inverters are a standalone piece and prone to faster degradation. You must be careful about what the manufacturer is offering as part of the extension before you opt for it.
2. Manage the battery efficiently
Battery maintenance is one of the most common issues that plague off-grid systems. We have often come across reckless people complaining of the same within the first year of owning a grid. Most premium brands offer up to 10 years of warranty on it, but users should have the knowledge of how to preserve it for longer.
Depending on how you manage it, your off-grid solar panel battery can last anything between 5-15 years. It is requisite that you plan your system the right way at the onset with getting the battery capacity in sync with the size you need, and inverters that are capable enough to handle it.
For instance, lead-acid batteries, one of the most common in solar panels, require full charge after using them. If the user cannot do that consistently, it can degrade the capacity much faster. Also, if they lie unused for an extended period without the user recharging them, it can cause permanent damage to the cell.
3. Keep your panel debris-free
The solar panels are exposed to every natural occurrence, such as rain, storms, winds, ice, etc. depending on the demography you reside. Manufacturers make the new age grids to withstand all of it and will stand the taste of time unless they suffer from physical damage.
To ensure its longevity, it is your responsibility to clean anything and everything that can harm it. Also, there are several pieces of equipment specifically made to give extra protection to the solar panels at a reasonable price.
How to clean solar panels?
Unless you are lazy, you can clean your grid twice a year. You must undertake it once every year, but if you live in a high-pollution area, it will demand higher maintenance. Efficient cleaning can improve performance by up to 5 %.
Here is how you can clean your solar panel system –
- Try to avoid touching it during the day. They absorb sun’s rays, and the temperature can be abominably high for you to handle. You can Prefer working with it during the night or wintry days.
- Every manufacturer attaches a prescribed way of cleaning the system. If you find it missing, you can look for it online or consult a friend who has it installed or have some idea about it.
- Buy a cleaning solution specifically designed for them. Fill a bucket with a mixture of the product you bought and warm water. Use a sponge to spread the solution.
- You can use your garden hose for cleaning most panel types unless they are too thin. It should clean off most of the dirt, and you may only have to give the finishing touch.
Investing in a solar panel is like purchasing any other capital asset. The upfront payment is high, but the benefits you derive from it belies the price tag conveniently. Especially, in this case, the investment pays for itself, and you can avail tax benefits and a decent saving every month in your electricity bill.
Like most other assets, a solar panel doesn’t become redundant after the warranty period. It will continue to operate at lower efficiency and is usable for 10-15 more years at least.
If we use any product, it is subject to degradation, and the case is no different here. But with proper care and favourable climate, the hefty cost of installation will barely seem much.
Most customers reach EPBT within ten years of installation, which means you get to enjoy lower electricity bills for the next twenty years at least.