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Last updated: 14 March 2018

The Lifespan of Solar Panels

What Do Manufacturers Say?

Manufacturers usually offer solar panels along with a 20-25 years of warranty. The warranty itself also guarantees that your panels should still produce at least 80% of their initial output peak rate after 20-25 years (depending on the panels or manufacturer). This means they expect no more than 1% decrease in efficiency per year.

The UK government’s forecast for the life of your panels is basically the same as the FIT (feed-in-tariff) scheme, which covers you for the next 25 years. Bear in mind that even though they come from reliable sources, those are just predictions.

Life expectancy of solar panels is usually a difficult topic to discuss as there are very few of them installed for long enough time to be thoroughly analyzed. For instance, in the UK more panels have been installed in the period 2006-2008 than in all previous years combined. Looking at the global picture, there’s only a tiny portion of panels older than 10 years. Hence, it’s really hard to really put a correct lifetime period for solar panels. 

Information From Real Cases

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) actually had the chance to test one of the solar panel systems they’ve installed. It consisted of 180 solar panels with an output of 75W. The panels were installed back in 1997 and CAT had the chance to test each one of them in 2010. The results averaged an output of around 68.5W, which represents an efficiency rate decrease of around 9% for 13 years (around 0.7% per year).

The inspection also discovered that some of the panels were slightly damaged (laminate peeling off and some yellow coloring at the front). However, none of them needed repairs.

Tests in Switzerland also showed positive results. The LEE-TISO testing centre for photovoltaic components installed Europe’s first grid-connected PV plant back in 1982. They had the opportunity to inspect it 20 years later in 2002. The results showed a steep decrease of around 11% (only 0.5% per year) against the initial output rate.

Interesting Fact

Britain’s first ever solar panel has been uncovered in 2010 and surprisingly it still works after 60 years! It looks more like a crystal ball and is based on the junction semiconductor idea, patented by Russel Ohl in 1946. The creator of this artifact has not been identified. It’s only known that he was a science teacher and only wanted to prove to his friends that sunlight can be turned into electricity. He never really believed that he could run anything off the panel. 

Read more here

The odd panel itself is on display at Antiques for Everyone show at Birmingham’s NEC. So if you are excited about it, just go check it out.

What Will Happen to my Panels in 25 Years?

In fact, nobody really knows. There’s little amount of data available as PV technology is rather new. Most panels installed are barely 10 years old. Anyway, there are several promising signs for the future. Technology is continuously improving, meaning that panels installed today are likely to live longer than the 25 years period prescribed to them. Many expect the modern generation of panels to last up to 30-40 years, which is good news for buyers as they will be able to cash in a bigger amount of earnings.

What Can I Do to Extend the Life of my Solar Panels?

Good

 

  • Most importantly, try to avoid any physical damage to the surface of the panels. More scratches mean bigger rates of degradation in efficiency.
  • Try to regularly clean your panels. Maintenance can be key. Read more here.
  • In extreme weather conditions try to think of a way to shelter the panels. 

However, before going ahead with the maintenance yourself, it might be a good idea to firstly check how your supplier could help. Many of them offer free maintenance and even if that’s not the case, a professional advice is always useful. Especially when it’s about an investment as significant as solar panels.

If you haven’t yet installed solar panels on your home, just keep those things in mind. For finding the product that suits your needs best, you are probably going to need professional assistance. If you are already interested in taking the first step of your solar adventure, just start researching and get familiar with solar energy and solar panels.