How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
There are many reasons why domestic customers and businesses acquire solar panels. As the world becomes more and more concerned with reducing carbon footprints and using renewable energy, solar panels that harvest energy from the sun are becoming an increasingly important part of our strategies to combat climate change.
For many people, there are other important benefits to using solar panels to generate some or all of their energy. For some, it is the ability to be able to rely on an energy source. For others, it’s the financial benefits of creating your own energy instead of buying it from the national grid.
Although the initial financial outlay for solar panels is not necessarily cheap, they can last for years, harvesting that important solar energy, and giving you savings on the energy that you take from the national grid for many years also.
Photovoltaic Solar Panels Life Expectancy
Generally speaking, the warranty on photovoltaic solar panels is 25 years, but they will often continue to work extremely effectively beyond this as long as they are looked after well (protected from damage and regularly cleaned and serviced).
After 25 years, you may find that the solar panels’ ability to absorb the solar energy begins to diminish.
If your motive for installing solar panels is purely financial, the most important thing to remember is that for a 100kWp commercial solar power installation installed today, the ROI after one year is 18%. You will also be likely to have made your money back in 5-6 years. This makes solar one of the cheapest forms of electricity in the UK.
Solar Panel Degradation Rate
When it comes to the life expectancy of a solar panel, we can measure how it is generally affected over time by a degradation rate. The degradation rate of a solar panel can vary according to the quality of the panel that is installed in the first place. The difference between a top-quality solar panel and a lower-quality solar panel can be up to around 10%.
A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states that a high-quality photovoltaic solar panel has a degradation rate of 0.3% per year.
This degradation occurs naturally over time but can be sped up if the solar panels are exposed to outside influences such as extreme weather (including unusually high levels of the sun) and damage.
If you have a 25-year warranty, this should cover any damage that occurs due to the weather.
Some people can supply monitoring systems or applications that can provide details of how your PV solar panels are working. Of course, there are inconsistencies from day to day – and during the different seasons of the year, but if you notice a general trend of a reduction in the amount of energy that is being produced, this is a sign that you should ask someone to check your solar panels or get some new ones. You might also find that your energy bill prices are rising inexplicably.
Repairing and Replacing Your Solar Panels
If you notice that the amount of energy that is being produced by your solar panels is reduced, there is a possibility that there could be a problem – especially if it is still early on in their lives. There are only really two components that could have a problem, which can be repaired if necessary.
Inverter – The inverter is the part of the system that converts the direct current (DC) into the alternating current (AC) which can then be used in the building. It will normally need to be replaced about every 10 – 15 years.
Solar batteries – Solar batteries are not always automatically included in your solar panel system. They are usually added as an optional extra that allows the system to store excess energy. A solar battery will normally have a warranty of 10 years, meaning that after this it is likely that you will need to replace it at some point.
Recycling Solar Panels
If you have solar panels installed, there will eventually come a point when they need to be replaced. This will typically be around 30 years after they have been installed. Such is the boom that we saw in solar panel installation from the 1990s until now, we are beginning to see the first generation of replacement solar panels being needed.
The good thing about having to replace solar panels is that they can be effectively recycled. The process involves separating out the different components of the solar panel and recycling them separately.
There are generally two different kinds of photovoltaic solar panels – silicon (about 95%) and thin-film panels (about 5%).
When silicon-based solar panels are recycled, the aluminium frames are automatically sent for recycling, where all of it is reused for something else. 95% of the glass is also recycled.
The silicon is then heated to a temperature of 500°C, where the small plastic components are evaporated and the cell modules can be separated easily. This leaves around 85% of the silicon to be formed into silicon slabs and often made into new solar panels, continuing the cycle.
Solar panels are incredibly durable and will last for decades if they are properly looked after. They are great for the environment and your finances, with today’s solar panels paying for themselves within six years.