How Long Do Solar Panels Last? Understanding the 25-Year Warranty
Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has seen remarkable progress over the past few decades in efficiency, price, lifespan, and reliability. One of the most common queries potential solar adopters have is: "How long will my solar panels last?" In this article, we'll dive into the lifespan of solar panels and the significance of the typical 25-year Warranty.
Lifespan of Solar Panels
The general lifespan of solar panels is between 25 to 30 years. However, this doesn't mean they stop producing electricity after that period. Instead, their efficiency, or the amount of sunlight they convert into electricity, gradually reduces over time.
For instance, a solar panel that starts with an efficiency of 20% might degrade to around 80-85% of its original efficiency after 25 years. This means that after 25 years, the same panel would operate at about 16-17% efficiency, still producing a significant amount of power but less than when it was new.
Causes of Efficiency Degradation
Various factors cause solar panels to degrade:
- Physical wear and tear: Like any other product exposed to the elements, solar panels experience wear and tear from weather-related factors such as temperature fluctuations, snow, wind, and rain.
- UV exposure: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause degradation. Ironically, the sunlight that powers the panels can also gradually wear them down.
- Potential Induced Degradation (PID): This phenomenon is where specific panel components can get charged and cause the panel to degrade faster than usual.
- Micro-cracks or manufacturing defects: These can occasionally appear in the silicon cells of a panel, slightly affecting its performance over time.
The 25-Year Warranty Explained
Many solar panel manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty, which can sometimes be a source of confusion. Here's how to understand it:
- Performance warranty: This is the most common Warranty associated with the 25-year mark. It guarantees that the panel will retain a certain percentage of its original efficiency by the end of the 25 years, typically around 80-85%.
- Product warranty: This typically ranges from 10 to 12 years and covers defects in manufacturing or materials. If a panel fails or shows abnormal degradation during this period due to a manufacturing issue, the manufacturer will replace or repair the panel.
Beyond the Warranty
Even after the warranty period ends, most solar panels will continue to produce electricity, albeit at reduced efficiency. Some panels outlive the 30-year mark with proper care and occasional maintenance. As technology evolves, newer panels may eventually have longer life expectancies and slower degradation rates.
Solar panels are a long-term investment designed to provide clean energy for decades. While they naturally degrade over time, the typical 25-year Warranty offers reassurance of their longevity and effectiveness. When considering solar panels, it's essential to look at both the product and performance warranties and to ensure you choose a reputable manufacturer that stands behind their products.