As solar panels are exposed to several factors, they experience various forms of degradation that can affect their power output. In this blog, we will discuss what causes solar panel degradation and how to enhance its durability and performance.
What is Solar Panel Degradation?
It refers to the gradual decline in the power output of solar panels. Over time, you might have seen that due to various external factors like weather, exposure to UV light, and normal maintenance issues, high-quality panels typically are degrading. There are different types of degradation such as age-related degradation, corrosion, microcracks, etc. which affect the performance of solar panels. Moreover, there can be mechanical and chemical degradation as well. So, before you invest in your solar system, weigh the pros and cons and then decide. The useful lifespan of solar panels depends on raw materials, quality standards during production, and the manufacturer.
Usually, their warranties cover about 25 years of service and with proper maintenance and care, the solar panels continue to perform well beyond that. However, note that these panels cannot be 100% efficient during their lifespan. Their efficiency gradually degrades and their ability to harness solar energy and produce the required output reduces as well.
What is Solar Panel Degradation Rate?
Solar panel degradation rate is the speed at which you will see a decline in producing power output in a solar panel. The average solar panel degradation rate is 0.5% per year. This means that electricity production of solar panels will reduce by 0.5% every year. So, by the end of their lifespan of 20-30 years, solar panels will experience a decrease in power generation of around 12-15%. Moreover, there are solar panels available in the market with a degradation rate as low as 0.25%, which also ensures better long-term performance.
The rate can get influenced by several parameters like climate, type of solar module, and quality of other components such as the solar glass and aluminum frame. If you have chosen a solar panel with low-quality materials, your system will be most likely to break and damage. Note that to avoid any damage, proper installation is crucial along with careful handling. The solar panel has to be positioned correctly considering its optimal angle and clamping. Additionally, regular maintenance is necessary to control the degradation rate so that you can increase the lifespan of the solar panel. You also have to keep the solar panel clean from dust and debris and ensure that connections and components are intact.
Therefore, when purchasing solar panels, it is important to have a good understanding of the average solar panel degradation rate so that your solar panels could achieve optimal performance.
Also Read: What are Solar Panel Health Side Effects?
What Causes Solar Panel Degradation?
To know why solar panels degrade, take a look below:
1. Light Induced Degradation (LID)
LID refers to the type of degradation that occurs in the initial hours of exposure to sunlight. This exposure can result in a performance decline of up to 10% in the first month. It is caused by the presence of a defective Boron-oxygen complex in the wafer used during the production of PV cells.
2. Potential Induced Degradation (PID)
PID is a type of degradation caused by voltage, heat, and humidity. When multiple panels are connected in a solar array, a negative potential can trigger PID in a solar cell. This disturbs the flow of electrons and reduces the electricity production of the solar panel. So, due to voltage leakage, PID can have a significant impact on the overall performance of the system. Over time, PID can spread to other solar cells, turning them black and leading to a gradual decrease in power output.
The development of microcracks on the silicon of solar cells is a common solar panel degradation factor. Microcracks mostly occur due to the thermal cycling process, which results in repeated expansion and contraction due to temperature differences. This leads to the formation of cracks which can eventually cause a collapse in the electrical connections within the panel, resulting in lower energy production.
4. Solar Panel Discoloration
Discoloration, especially brown or yellow pigment, is often seen on panels due to the presence of Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA). This discoloration is a result of chemical reactions within the panel, which can be triggered by poor storage and handling conditions. This discoloration impacts the EVA film and back sheet, potentially causing corrosion and further damage to the cells.
5. Age-related Degradation
Over time, solar panels naturally degrade due to exposure to UV rays, adverse weather conditions, and environmental factors. Heavy rainfall, snowfall, extreme temperatures, and contaminants are the major factors that influence the degradation rate to increase every year. These cause hardening of the silicon, frame corrosion, cell contamination, and the formation of microcracks. In addition to this issue, there are reactions occurring within the components of the semiconductor used in the cells. This can lead to the shadowing effect which reduces the conversion efficiency of solar panels that the panel effectively converts into electrical power.
To minimize degradation and ensure optimal performance of solar panels, it is important to purchase high-quality panels, ensure proper installation, and conduct regular maintenance. In this way, the lifespan of the solar system can be extended, and its efficiency can be maintained throughout its usage. To know how to extend the life of a solar panel system in detail, check out the next pointer.
What Can I Do to Extend the Life of My Solar System?
You already know what causes solar panel degradation. So, to ensure long time better performance of your solar system, there are several measures you can take.
1. Invest in High Quality Solar Panels
It is crucial to invest in high-quality panels that are designed to absorb adverse weather conditions and are less prone to degradation over time. Therefore, as an investor, you must do thorough research before selecting your solar system.
2. Install Solar Panels Properly
Proper installation of the solar panels has to be done by experienced professionals so that the panels are correctly mounted and positioned for maximum sunlight exposure. To receive maximum sunlight, you can also adjust and shift the angle throughout the year, optimizing energy production.
3. Regularly Inspect your System
Regular inspection extends the longevity of the solar system. It can detect any potential faults at an early stage and should be repaired promptly by qualified technicians. You should ask your technician to check for sagging racks, exposed wires, cracks, and broken parts of the panel. So, it is better to do a routine check-up so that the said issue can be identified and repaired to prevent further complications.
4. Keep the Panels Clean
Keeping the solar panels clean is important to extend the lifespan of the solar panel. Regularly removing dust, dirt, and debris from the panel increases its capacity to absorb sunlight. Cleaning can be done using a soft brush or cloth with a gentle stream of water. However, check out the manufacturer’s guidelines and don’t use abrasive materials that may potentially damage the panels.
5. Install Backup Battery
Incorporating a backup battery into your solar system can help extend its lifespan. This also improves its overall efficiency and allows you to store excess energy. It is very much beneficial during periods of low sunlight or power outages. So, installing a backup battery can prevent overloading the solar system enhancing its overall performance.
6. Consider Using Solar Concentrators
Additionally, using a solar concentrator can improve energy conversion and minimize waste. Solar concentrators increase the efficiency of the solar panel by focusing more sunlight on it, utilizing a higher percentage of the available sunlight.
Therefore, maintenance, correct installation, and using high-quality components are important for maximizing the overall performance of solar panels in the long run. Moreover, regular inspections are necessary to detect and address issues promptly and take measures to prevent excessive damage, such as using backup batteries and arranging the panels at the right angle. So, by taking these measures, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your solar system and get adequate returns on its investment.
To summarize, solar panel degradation gradually declines the efficiency of PV modules due to cell aging, environmental conditions, PID, and thermal effects. You should address these issues to maintain the long-term performance of solar installations.
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