The Lifespan Of Solar Panels: What Is It All About?
Recycling energy from the sun into constant electricity has become one of the leading principles of profitable and long-term usage of natural resources.
Solar panel life expectancy is considered to be long by the followers of such technologies – they look forward to the effectiveness of the batteries, which last numerous years, and don’t even think about falling into despair over time.
Unfortunately, due to improvement of the technologies and appearance of quality classification, the lifetime of a solar panel is directly dependent on manufacturer and production – despite these aspects, solar panels do not last forever.
Considering the potential ending of their useful term, it is important to know how long solar panels last and why they lose efficiency over time?
Why do solar panels wear out?
The end of the batteries' beneficial lifetime is a multifactorial aspect, which is accompanied by functional violations. The main cause of those is the impact of the weather on the construction’s framework:
Overheating of the interlayer, made of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) causes its turbidity, which leads to less sunlight coming onto the receiving element – the work effectiveness gets worse.
Regular temperature contrast (drops between warm and cold weather) increases the susceptibility of sealed membranes to structural defects – ultraviolet radiation breaks superficial cells.
The back module surface becomes more permeable to moisture, which causes its mechanical destruction.
No matter what the cause of the functional abnormality was, the solar panel retrogression may be – an objective indicator of longevity coming to an end.
What is solar panel degradation?
It is the beginning of effectiveness reduction, which is shown by percentage. Starting with full-fledged work properties (100%), every year it degrades with a constant rate of 0,3 % – 0,8 %. The minimum indicator, when the battery is effective, is 80%, if it is less, it may be less useful and financially unprofitable.
It is easy to count that after 10 years of use about 5% of effective energy recycling may be lost, but it will still be able to work and have no signs of defects. So, if the battery produces near 4 kW/hour, the number may be reduced to 3,7-3,8 kW/hour, which is not a critical mark – it is more than enough to cover the energetical expanses.
Companies installing solar panels usually help to take these indicators and give all the information about functional monitoring of your recycling installation.
Getting less functionality is classified by risk factors and causes of it:
Degradation caused by light occurs when a product is first exposed to radiation, resulting in reduced photoconductivity. It is considered the “tune-up” phase, also called initial (short-term), and occurs after the first 1000 hours. The efficiency of the apparatus at the current stage decreases on average by 1–3% and then stabilizes. Such type of retrogression is predominantly inherent in monocrystalline types.
Aging-associated degradation. Modules are influenced by external factors, which are inevitable – is the natural wear and tear of batteries. Such aging changes occur due to chemical reactions in semiconductors, which cause crystalline solidification, as well as due to pollution of PV modules, climatic conditions, weather, and the influence of ultraviolet radiation. Usually, it is fully irreversible (it can not be prevented) and from an economic point of view, there is no sense in eliminating it.
Potential type of degradation is not always presented, but if it happens, the performance decreases by up to 30%. All types of structural elements (mono- and polycrystalline, as well as thin-film) are subject to it. In some cases, it is reversible, but a rather complex technical problem, requiring an immediate solution. Such coming down occurs when essential components fall under different voltages: with a potential difference between solar cells and the frame (mounting structure, aluminum, or steel frame). The deviation causes voltage leakage and therefore reduces the output power of the mechanism. The main reason for the phenomena's appearance is polarization – is the cell’s potential concerning the earth.
The breakdown is less intensive if the product is high-qualitative – reliability of the solar panel is usually better and therefore the decrease in efficiency doesn’t affect the performance of it too much. The degree can be roughly estimated at the time of purchase – brands declare these indicators in their guarantee of efficiency.
Do not forget to review the product warranty as well – manufacturing defects also affect the life output power.
What is the normal solar panel durability?
The lifetime indicator shows how the effectiveness of the battery decreases after a guaranteed time of use. The leading brands (Tier 1) manufacture the most long-lasting products with a 25-30 life cycle. Tier 2 and 3 are considered to be worth in longevity – 15-20 guaranteed workability is promised.
The type of construction may also be essential in how long it provides its main function:
Monocrystalline constructions can produce electricity for more than 20 years. Its composition has higher efficiency and better performance in low light conditions due to its more harmonious structure.
Polycrystalline type acquires visible signs of functional failure after 15-17 years. They are cheaper and their use is advisable if there is no task of obtaining maximum electricity generation from a unit of installed capacity.
A detailed analysis of efficacy due to manufacturers helped to define the most capable of long-term recycling of energy and not manifested annual degradation.
Product Durability (years)
Hyundai Heavy Ind.
The warranty that is usually proposed by brands that install solar energy systems for home defines the minimum age of their workability when the highest function rate is provided. Lead solar guarantees 25 years of their ability to work, which is considered a long and effective lifetime.
What is done after solar panels useful life ends?
If you see your generator’s efficiency gets lower after 25 years of use, you may think about its recycling.
The complete dismantling of a photovoltaic solar panel is a fairly simple operation because it doesn’t require serious foundations. However, such facilities use large quantities of steel, copper, and aluminum, and the value of these materials may well exceed the cost of decommissioning. The technologies of recycling modules are aimed at processing crystalline silicon and thin-film photovoltaic modules.
The processing can be rough (extraction of glass, aluminum, copper – the materials, which make up the bulk of the module) and light (high-value recycling), which means the extraction of almost all chemical elements used in a photovoltaic battery.
Since today the waste volumes are small, modules are mainly recycled in factories, producing laminated glass or metals.
As a result, only the main materials are released, while outer details and other materials such as plastics are incinerated.
So, rough processing is similar to the existing technology of reusing laminated glass in other industries and does not provide recovery of environmentally hazardous or valuable materials. The recycling process must be carefully controlled because of the high risk of toxic material leakage.
The elaboration consists of three main steps:
Pre-processing, which includes the removal of the metal frame and junction box.
Delamination and removal of the tabular.
Recovery of glass and metals.
How can you extend life of your batteries?
To reach maximum beneficial success, specific care of your systems should be provided.
Clean them regularly. Dust accumulates in the inner layer and causes structural breakdowns. Start taking care of it practically after the first day of use – abrasion marks on the module appear and badly influence its function.
Do not let cells contact extraneous objects. Remove everything, falling onto the upper part of an external layer– an ability to take energy may be reduced.
Choose proper landscaping. The location of the system, its accessibility to provide maintenance and repair, the lack of shading of constructions from emerging obstacles to sunlight – all this affects the optimization of the photovoltaic station’s function.
Provide prophylactic investigation. Solar energy partners always promise to help you with finding any abnormality if any problem with its efficiency is manifested. You may ask for monitoring each 2-3 years of use. Sometimes not the whole system should be changed – setting of new details or repairing of them may also help to prolong the system’s workability:
Fasteners: loose or missing fasteners, improperly installed hardware and corrosion results in mechanical damage to individual modules or the entire system. You should systematically check them and replace them if necessary.
Filters: regularly wash the inner and their external parts – it helps to reduce the overheating chance.
Insulating tubes: if they are damaged, the wires in them are vulnerable to mechanical damage. Check their condition and fix, if the efficiency gets lower.
Grounding: a ground fault is an essential feature of any electrical system. Poor grounding, lack of insulation, or insufficiently strong contacts causes construction downtime.
When the panel should be replaced?
It should be done only if the degradation indicator shows less than 80% of general activity and recycled energy is not enough for covering your energetic needs and brings no financial profit. If all the details and battery parts are in a good condition and no signs of breaks may be seen – it makes the setting match all the requirements, let it work.
So, the question of how often you should replace old photocells and their constituents and how many years do they last often falls under its condition.
To summarize all said above, solar panels are expendable, and how long their work time depends on what attitude you have to them.
If the elements are kept in a good condition and regular technical care is provided, the installation will be helpful and bring profit for many years and become a component of energetic progress.