Lifespan and Durability of Solar Panels

Installing solar panels allows you to reduce energy bills, generate free electricity, gain independence from the grid, and reduce carbon emissions, but it’s also a substantial expense.

With the costs of installing a solar PV system averaging around £7,000 or more, it’s only suitable to wonder what the lifespan and durability of solar panels are before investing in solar power. 

You’ll save more money the longer your solar panels effectively generate electricity. Knowing their lifespan and durability allows you to determine how long you can generate sustainable energy for your home and whether it’s a worthy investment. 

This guide explores the lifespan and durability of solar panels, the factors that affect solar panel longevity, and the steps you can take to ensure they last as long as possible so you can get the most out of your investment.

Key Takeaways:

  • New solar panels can last for up to 25 years or more
  • All solar panels degrade over time 
  • Factors like panel quality, installation, climate, and maintenance will affect how long your solar panels last.

What is the Lifespan of Solar Panels?

Solar panels are designed to last decades. According to the Energy Savings Trust, they have a lifespan of 25 years or more.

Most panels come with a 25-year warranty from the manufacturer, guaranteeing the module’s performance level, usually a power output of 90% for the first ten years and 80% for the entire 25 years. 

After this point, you may notice reduced energy production or degradation. The panels will still convert sunlight into energy but at a lower rate than when they were new.

The materials that make up the solar panels, usually aluminium and glass, are very durable and can last much longer, from 30 to 50 years. 

What is the Degradation Rate of Solar Panels?

The degradation rate refers to the speed at which the output and efficiency of the solar panels decrease over time.

Solar panels aren’t fragile and will degrade very slowly, with studies showing an average degradation rate of 0.5% per year.

Let’s say you’ve had your panels for four years; then the energy production will be 2% less than when you installed them, and after 20 years, it will be 10% less.  

Solar panels can be subject to various degradation mechanisms, including:

  • Age degradation – It’s natural to notice some wear and tear on your solar panels as time passes because of exposure to different weather conditions like high temperature and humidity. Such conditions can harden the crystalline silicon, corrode the frame, or contaminate the cells. 
  • Light-induced degradation (LID) – This occurs when solar panels are first exposed to sunlight and results from traces of oxygen in the silicon wafer. 
  • Potential induced degradation (PID) – PID results from an electrical potential difference between the back and front electrodes of the solar panel module and can be triggered by factors like high temperatures, humidity, or certain chemicals. Studies estimate it can reduce output by 30% or more. 
  • UV exposure – UV exposure can cause the rear protective back sheet or the encapsulant to break down, crack, or degrade due to poor quality control or substandard material selection. 

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What Factors Affect the Solar Panel Lifespan?

Various factors can impact how long your solar panels last, including:

Solar Panel Quality

Product quality is critical for the lifespan of your solar panels. Choosing high-quality solar panels can help prevent severe degradation and significantly impact long-term output.

The panels will still degrade, but the drop will be less than cheap solar panels. High-quality solar panels use better cells and offer better energy savings and higher power output.

Look for products with extended production warranties, which show the manufacturer is confident in the longevity of their product.

Solar Panel Installation

It’s essential to have your solar panels installed by a certified and experienced installer to avoid improper installations.

With a qualified installer, you can be confident that the installation is correct and to the highest standards, ensuring your solar panels perform as expected and last for many years.

Ensure you choose a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified solar panel installer so you can be confident in their quality, competence, and adherence to industry standards.

Climate

Your area climate can significantly influence the performance and lifespan of your solar panels.

If it’s hot where you live, the solar panels can experience higher degradation since the solar panel materials break down faster in hotter than colder conditions.

Conditions like hail, high winds, or humidity can also negatively impact your solar panels by causing damage to parts and components. 

Maintenance

Solar panels only require little maintenance to ensure they last as long as possible. A little TLC can go a long way in extending your solar panels’ lifespan.

Ask your installer to give you written details of any maintenance checks you should perform to ensure everything in the system works properly.

It can include essential troubleshooting guidance and details of the main inverter fault signals. 

Related solar guides:

Steps to Ensure Your Solar Panels Last Longer

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your solar panel lasts as long as possible:

  • Have your panels cleaned regularly, especially if you live in a dusty area. Your solar panels will absorb sunlight more effectively when clean and debris-free. Depending on your location, some solar panels may need weekly cleaning, while others will need monthly cleaning. 
  • Look out for nearby trees and trim them to reduce shading on the array, and gently sweep any leaves from the surface of the panels. 
  • Check the panel output regularly through a monitoring system or the inverter. An app-based monitoring system to check and ensure your system is performing at optimum levels. 
  • Occasionally inspect your panels for signs of damage, such as cracks, corrosion, or chips, and address any issues promptly so they don’t worsen. 
  • Install critter guards and other protective measures to prevent birds and other animals from nesting under or around your solar panels. 

Final Thoughts

Solar panels have a lifetime of 25 years or more but generally degrade over time despite their durability.

Investing in high-quality panels, using a qualified and experienced installer, and performing simple maintenance tasks can ensure your solar panels last as long as possible. 

Sources used in this article:

  • https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/solar-panels/
  • https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/51664.pdf
  • https://www.mdpi.com/2673-9941/3/2/19