Unlike a fine wine, where quality improves with time, solar panels slowly fall from their peak performance. Some panels more so than others, but the reality is that, if the panel was manufactured correctly, solar panels don’t actually die as much as quietly fade to black.
But it might surprise you just how long lasting solar panels really are.
Just ask Ralph Jimenez and Linda Graham from New Hampshire. They installed a single 12 volt Kyocera solar panel back in 1979… and incredibly, it is still working today!
Imagine the return on investment for a solar purchase with more than four decades of day to day output.
Why Don’t Solar Panels Die?
One of the biggest contributors to a solar panels longevity is the lack of moving parts. It is true that you will see some panels change positions in order to track the sun. But it is the tracking system itself that is doing the moving and not the solar panels.
Solar panels are basically inert from a mechanical sense, generating power via a chemical means; provided by the innate characteristics of the materials used and being triggered by the photons present in sunlight (see photovoltaic effect).
Another factor that adds to an incredibly long lifespan is the actual ingredients of a solar panel. Unlike a battery that quite often consists of corrosive materials, the power generating elements of a solar panel are mostly silicon – a substance which is not so apt to deteriorate.
Combine these two characteristics with a protective shell and you have a device that is inclined to lasting a very long time.
However, it should be noted that just because a solar panel hasn’t died, that doesn’t mean it will run at peak performance for the entirety of its long life. There will be a slight reduction of power production. For more on this, consider reading, ‘Do Solar Panels Become Less Efficient Over Time?’
How Long Will A Solar Panel Last?
As with any notable investment, a purchaser wants the most ‘bang for buck’. Having your solar investment last as long as possible, fits this idea.
The following is a list of factors that can have a direct influence on how long and how well your solar panels perform.
- Environment – Whether it’s the sustained freezing temperatures of living near the Arctic Circle or the triple digit temperatures of the Mojave Desert, solar panels have proven to generate power. However, the extreme sides of nature can have an effect on a panel’s performance over time.
And no mention of the environment could be complete without noting the obvious negatives such as hail or freezing rain. If hail is large enough it can damage the protective coating severely hampering the ability of sunlight to directly strike the crucial components.
In the case of freezing rain, water has a very unique ability of finding its way into places which are undesirable. If rain water were to collect in the wrong place, then freezing temperatures could apply unwanted pressure – specifically on the outer edges – which can cause cracking or even a sort of delaminating of components.
- Panel Quality – In a market such as solar panels, where demand is so heavy, it is not unheard of to have a lapse in quality. Whether it is in manufacturing, in installation or even in the refinement of components, holding true to standards is absolutely critical to a panel performing long term.
This is why it is so important to consider the manufacture’s reputation when deciding to make the investment.
- Luck – Ask anyone with gray hair, sometimes you just get lucky… and then sometimes you don’t. A person could do their very best to research solar companies and installers only to have some rare event negatively impact their investment.
While the general homeowner would spend more on a vehicle than on a home-power system (sized appropriately), the cost is still not what most would consider to be ‘petty cash’. A solar investment should always be approached with a serious mindset.
That being said, solar panel technology is not exactly standing still. Case in point, the panels we installed in 2015 are no longer being manufactured; being replaced by a superior model.
To put this in perspective, if we were to utilize the same budget we did in 2015, we could install a home-power system today with roughly twice the capacity.
While this is obviously a very sobering fact, it should be noted that the solar panels we do have are providing clean power… and probably will for decades to come. And that is something worth focusing on.
In the case of solar technology, ‘the best’ is a very brief title as advancements in this field are, thankfully, never-ending.
Think of it as a roller coaster of sorts. You can stand off to the side, waiting for the next best thing, or you can step up and enjoy the experience.