Why Do Solar Panels Only Last 30 Years?
Solar panels are among the most relied-upon renewable energy sources. With solar energy powering homes and businesses, ensuring a reliable and renewable electrical supply, their longevity should be of the utmost importance. However, the solar panels generally have a lifespan of 30 years, leaving some wondering why that is.
Solar Panel Lifespan
The lifespan of a solar panel is mainly dependent on two factors — weather elements and strain from inverters. As the name suggests, weather elements refer to the wear and tear caused by external weather conditions ranging from heavy rain and strong wind to extreme heat and cold. On the other hand, the strain caused by inverters is due to their continual conversion of solar energy into usable electricity.
Impact of Weather Elements
Solar panel degradation is caused by a number of external factors, including weather elements and climate changes. In extreme heat and cold, solar panels may overheat or freeze, resulting in decreased efficiency, partial system failure, and even complete system shutdowns. The same can be said for heavy rain and strong winds, where strong winds may cause physical damage to the panel or system and heavy rains may lead to water corrosion over time.
As an example, in 2020, an Australian solar panel was subjected to intense weather conditions due to a category 5 cyclone, which ultimately caused its efficiency to decrease by 56%. This example is a testament to how damaging external weather conditions can be on solar panel performance.
Inverter’s Role in Solar Aquiring Energy
When a solar panel generates electricity, it is then sent to an inverter where the direct current (DC) is converted into alternating current (AC), the form of electricity that can be used in homes and businesses. The strain on an inverter is heavy as they are expected to work continually up to 10 to 15 years. This could contribute to the 30 year solar panel lifespan, as the combination of having an inverter work hard and the damaging weather elements could cause faster degradation in solar panel performance.
New Developments in Solar Technology
Fortunately, technological advancements have since been made to increase the lifespan of solar panels. One such effort includes the development of high efficiency solar panels that are capable of producing more electricity on the same surface area and at a significantly lower cost. The newer modules are also much more resilient to damage from the elements.
For example, the LG NeON-R Twin consists of two panels stacked together, with each panel having a cell efficiency of up to 20.2%. This design prevents overheating and subsequent power losses that may occur due to heat. They also feature an innovative Cello technology, which reduces the interconnect ribbon width and increases the number of ribbons within the panel. This richer wiring ensures better performance and more resistance to external elements.
Considerations for Investment
Although the longer lifespan of the upgraded solar panels and inverters may be seen as an additional cost in the short run, it is something worth investing in. In the long run, the costs of investing in solar panel and inverter upgrades can pay dividends. Whether you’re the owner of a home or a business, these longer lifespan improvements can help offset the cost of the original solar panel installation and maintenance for many years to come.
An example of this cost vs benefit calculation is evident in terms of power output. If you have a typical solar panel with an efficiency of around 16%, you could expect an average of 25MW of energy per day. An upgraded panel with total efficiency of 20.2%, on the other hand, could generate up to 37.5 MW of energy per day. Considering that the stated figure assumes that the solar panel would last for 25 years, the conversion of energy in the long run renders the initial cost to be negligible.
In conclusion, even though the standard lifespan of a solar panel is 30 years, factors such as wear and tear from weather elements and strain from inverters can shorten this lifespan. Technology advancements in terms of efficiency and durability are helping to improve the longevity of solar panels and inverters. Investing in these upgrades should be considered when investing in solar energy, given their potential to pay dividends in the long run.
Ultimately, understanding why solar panel last 30 years isn’t a difficult task – it comes down to weather elements, inverter strain, and technological advancements. This provides valuable insight on solar technology advancements and answers the question: why do solar panels only last 30 years?