Sustainability of Solar Panels


Published at - August 23, 2021

8 min read

The discussion of the sustainability of solar panels has twofold perspectives. First, the perspective of energy and resource and the second, the sustainability of the panel itself. In this article, we are going to discuss the second perspective. We are going to discuss how long solar panels generate power efficiently until they are worn out and become inefficient. In short, this discussion is dedicated to the life expectancy of solar panels that you want to install on your roof.

Does Solar System Wear Out?

Any system that operates in the universe wears out. Every terrestrial entity, system, machinery and material are subject to destruction, as it gets exposed to air, water, vapour, dust and other earthly particles. Solar Panels, although sustainable, also wear out due to the course of time.

Is it like this that the solar panels you have installed in your roof-top or ground will stop working completely one day? No. Solar Panels will degrade gradually as the building elements of the panel will decay. Therefore, slowly it will lose efficiency, and one day it will fail to generate sufficient electricity.

Should we wait that long? In our view, we shouldn’t. Change the panels after a specific period. That won’t cost much. After all, if the panels are failing to provide enough electricity, what’s the use?

What Degrades Solar Panels? Solar panels can be subject to gradual decay which is perfectly natural, or they can be degraded or broken down by accidents, natural calamities and mismanagements. Before we go to the mismanagement or accidental causes, let’s draw our attention to more natural decay.

In the previous blogs, we have discussed the physiology and anatomy of a solar cell. The main functioning part of a cell is the silicon cell. Other parts are built to increase efficiency or to protect the solar panels from external particles. The Glass Layer and the Frame covering the solar panels are protective layers that slow down the gradual degradation process. Still, the solar panels will run out of its efficiency one day.

A long time of exposure to adverse climate causes the solar panels to degrade. Heavy snowfall, ice as well as high-temperature causes hardening of the crystalline silicon, frame corrosion, and cell contamination. Also, microcracks (an indication of material failure) on the surface of the panels can be caused by ice, dust and sand. Water, if it can reach the cell can degrade it. Although the cell is protected by different layers of protective frames, microcracks are responsible for water to penetrate the frame and cause untimely decay.

Also, degradation can be caused by reactions in semiconductor materials within the cell. Also, a degradation is called potential-induced degradation. Although rare, it may cause when different components in a system are at different voltages. It is difficult for you to solve the problem. Therefore, consult an engineer or the manufacturer who installed the panels.

Another enemy of solar panels is UV rays and direct light. UV rays form a layer of boron dioxide which reduces the efficiency. Also, direct exposure to sunlight during the installation period cause the electrons on the cell to behave unusually and reduce the efficiency. Although light-induced degradation is not the biggest problem to think about. They are often inevitable and short-lived. Also, the adversity caused by the weather and the external particles cannot be prevented, at least not completely. The main attention should be drawn to the proper management.

Firstly, the manufacturer and the elements are facts here. If you consult a manufacturer who isn’t responsible enough to use authentic elements or is not very efficient in installing the panel the useful life of the solar panels will reduce considerably. Apart from that, it’s important to ask yourself that where you want to install the panels. Is your roof strong? Does anyone who uses the roof will not go gentle with the panels? Is there anything else that goes on or going on where you installed the panel, construction works or an event that may damage the panel?

You need to choose the site carefully and exert proper management for the panels you have installed. After discussing the average life expectancy of the solar panels, we are going to give you some tips that may be useful to you to reduce the degradation rate of your solar panels.

How Long Does the Average Solar System Last?

The average solar system may last more than 50 years, or it may wear out in its late 25th. It depends on the climate, the place where you install and your management efficiency. However, above all, the longevity of solar panels depends on the manufacturers. Different manufacturers promise you different warranties. If your site is industrial and you would consider the solar system as a very important investment, you must look for a reliable manufacturer.

Generally, the useful life of solar panels is 25-30 years. That means it shows its highest efficiency during this period. It may wear out after that, if not properly managed, low-quality elements are used or installed unprofessionally. Otherwise, panels can produce electricity for decades longer, even for sixty years. Often, it is said that a solar panel may lose 10% of its efficiency in the first ten years. For high-quality solar panels, it comes to 80% efficiency from 90%.

Although the useful life of the solar panels is 25-30 years, most of the solar panels generate sufficient power until it reaches its fourth decade. It can still go on generating electricity after that, but with reduced efficiency. Will you change the solar panel after that? Depends on your financial plans.

Three Tips to Make Your Solar Panels Last Longer

If you wish to make your solar panel last longer, we have three tips for you:

  1. Keep Your Panels Clear of Debris and Other damaging Materials Solar Panels already have multiple layers of protection which keeps the panel clear of natural damaging particles. Still, due to adverse weather solar panels face decay and wear out in time. You cannot protect your solar panel indefinitely. What you can do is to make sure no external materials other than natural particles damage your panels. If possible, plant the solar panels in such places where the panels are attacked by fewer particles and are exposed to less adverse climates. If you think you can’t manage this by placing them on your roof, place them on the ground.
  2. Make Sure Your Panels are Regularly monitored and maintained To keep an effective and efficient solar panel, regular monitoring and necessary. Check the connections, cablings, inverters and additional pieces of machinery and devices regularly and make sure they are working properly. Often, you might need to change a specific device or a piece of machinery to make the whole process running. Remove any build-up of dust or debris that could affect the panels. Keep the panels clean and also clean the site where you installed your panels.
  3. Team up with trustworthy solar provider It is one of the most important pieces of advice to anyone who wants to install solar panels. Not all manufacturers are trustworthy. Often some local manufacturers might be good for limited level solar installation. However, when it comes to a big project or a solar system to satisfy most of your needs, they are not to be trusted with. Also, some solar providers might give you low-quality elements, which may reduce the lifespan of a solar panel. Installation of the panels must be considered with importance. Do not hire anyone who isn’t a professional. Flawed installation always causes difficulties. It is advisable to contact a reputable solar provider. We, Solaric, has the best engineers and solar manufacturers who can be trusted for quality solar panel installation. If you are willing to install solar panels for industrial sites, contact us or any other solar providers who are well known. Also, you might need to keep in contact with your manufacturer. If anything goes wrong or if you want to expand or reduce or make any change in the system, contact the manufacturer who installed the project for the first time.

If you take our tips with great importance and act it out, you will hopefully enjoy electricity generated from your solar panels for half your life before changing them. Go Solar! Save some energy!