It’s inevitable for machinery and devices to degrade over time, solar panels also won’t be able to perform at their full potential forever, and they will become less effective over time. They go through degradation and various factors affect their degradation speed as well as rate. If you are curious to know what is solar panel degradation and why do solar panels degrade then you are at the right place. This blog will tell you every basic and complex aspect of solar panel degradation.
What is Solar Panel Degradation?
Over time, solar cells of the solar panels become less effective than before. They gradually lose their capability to produce solar energy. This phenomenon is referred to as solar panel degradation. Solar panels generally have a warranty of 25-30 years, however, rooftop solar panels can last longer than that. It depends on the design, components, and maintenance of panels. Now, you must be clear about what is solar panel degradation. There are further a lot of reasons responsible for why do solar panels degrade. Let’s learn about them in detail.
Why Do Solar Panels Degrade?
Solar panel degradation is a common phenomenon. Gradually, all the solar panels lose their efficiency and degrade. It isn’t a process that happens instantly and various factors are working behind it. To thoroughly understand why do solar panels degrade, you have to dig deeper into solar panel degradation factors and solar panel degradation types.
What are Solar Panel Degradation Types?
These are some of the most common solar panel degradation types you may come across-
1. Age-Related Degradation
It is one of the main factors behind why do solar panels degrade and thus is among the most common solar panel degradation types. Aging even lowers the efficiency of devices like solar panels. Such panels are exposed to varying weather conditions like hail, strong winds, heavy snow or rain, and high temperatures, thus they go through extreme wear and tear. These factors cause hardening of the crystalline silicon, cell contamination, and frame corrosion.
2. Microcraks and Hotspots
Most of the modern solar panels you see today consist of a series of solar cells made up of ultra-thin crystalline silicon wafers. Typically, these wafers are around 0.16mm thick or around twice the width of human hair. Thus it’s very natural that these wafers are quite delicate and can fracture or crackers under high mechanical stresses like large hail, extreme wind loads, or mishandling during installation. However, you must also keep note of this not all cells are fragile, some companies use IBC cells that are quite strong.
Microcraks are often invisible at first and thus are very hard to detect. In older solar panels, tiny fractures are often visible. They will appear as snail trails on the surface of the solar cell. Such fractures don’t always cause major problems and the solar panel will still perform well for many years with these cracks.
When micro-cracks increase the internal resistance as well as break the flow of current, they turn more of a serious issue. They start leading to a hot cell or hot spot.
b) Hot Spots
An electrical current is generated by the solar cells and this current flows through the interconnected cells. If there is a break in the flow of this current due to internal fault or micro-cracking there is increased heat. This further increases the resistance and more heat is created. All this results in the formation of a hot spot. In extreme cases, this can even burn the cells.
3. Light Induced Degradation (LID)
A solar system goes through LID (Light Induced Degradation) from the time it’s installed and exposed to the sun for the first them. Due to this degradation, the photoconductivity of the solar panels is reduced. It is also referred to as the initial degradation. The panels at this stage have a 1-3% reduced efficiency. In subsequent years, there is a lower rate of decline. As sunlight is one of the key players behind the degradation of solar panels, manufacturers add UV blockers in the panels to protect them from the sun’s radiation.
4. Potential Induced Degradation (PID)
This degradation is induced by high voltages and it occurs when different solar panel components are operating at high voltages. This disordering causes voltage leaks and thus the amount of electricity the panels can send to the inverter is also reduced. The solar panels that are affected by PID have non-functional black cells. Usually, these cells are found near the frame. The massive flow of electrons through solar cells as well as the difference in voltage across such panels are responsible for PID. This type of degradation isn’t a usual kind of degradation. However, when it does happen, it reduces a panel’s performance by about 30% or sometimes even more.
PERC solar cell technology is used in most modern silicon crystalline solar panels. It increases solar panels’ efficacy and is thus used by the majority of the world’s solar panel manufacturers. However, quite recently, the world became aware that P-type PERC cells can suffer from light and elevated temperature-induced degradation or LeTID.
LeTID is similar to LID but the losses due to the former have been recorded to be as high as 6% (in the first year). If this issue isn’t accounted for by the manufacturer, it could lead to poor performance as well as potential warranty claims.
Luckily, N-type silicon cells from different many manufacturers don’t suffer from the effects of LeTID. Additionally, many manufacturers who use P-type mono and poly PERC have developed processes during manufacturing to eliminate or reduce any LeTID losses. Q cells were the first ones to claim anti-LeTID technology for all solar panels. After this, let’s learn about solar panel degradation factors and solar panel degradation over time.
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What are Solar Panel Degradation Factors? What Factors Affect Solar Panel Degradation Over Time?
After learning why do solar panels degrade, let’s learn about the factors affecting solar panel degradation over time These are the most common solar panel degradation factors-
Extreme weather events like snowstorms, heat waves, and hurricanes can affect the rate of age-related degradation. Due to dramatic temperature changes, the components of your solar panel expand and contract. This causes cracks and other damage to the panels. On the other, heavy snowfall can pressure the surface of solar panels and create cracks (especially if the snow freezes). Additionally, Hurricanes can cause debris to fall on the panels and damage their surface.
Although solar panels don’t demand high-level maintenance it’s still necessary to monitor them to remove any built-up dust or debris that could affect their electricity output. It’s advised to regularly check the cabling, inverters, and connection to ensure none are broken or loose.
To avoid any damage, it’s very essential to handle and store solar panels correctly before as well as during installation. Improper electrical connections, scratches, and micro-cracks during installation affect the solar panel’s performance.
It’s also extremely important for the installation to make sure that the solar panels are placed on the roof with optimal clamping as well as angle. This is to get the most out of mechanical resistance and self-cleaning.
4. Panel Assembly
Along with high-quality materials, the way a solar panel is assembled can also affect its lifespan. Incompatible components and materials could accelerate PID or LID if they have an impact on the amount of voltage leak or oxidation.
5. Panel Quality
If solar panel components and materials like solar cells, solar glass, and aluminum frames are of low quality, they can easily break. To reduce solar panel prices, some manufacturers even reduce the amount of aluminum they use in the panels. This makes thinner frames which are more vulnerable to damage. Such panels may have a lower upfront cost but in the long run, their failure rate is higher. In the future, they’ll need to be replaced. After this, let’s explore about solar panel degradation curve and solar panel degradation rate.
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What is Solar Panel Degradation Rate? What is Solar Panel Degradation Curve?
Solar panel degradation rate is about 1% each year. Like any other technology, solar panels will also lose their efficiency over time. Solar panel degradation rate results in a reduction in power production. The median degradation rate of a solar panel is around 0.5% per year. This means that the solar panel energy output goes down by 0.5 % every year. This should have also given you an idea about the solar panel degradation curve. After learning this, let’s find out do solar panels degrade in storage.
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Do Solar Panels Degrade in Storage?
Solar panels are great devices for powering your home with sustainable and cost-effective energy. But when it comes to moving and storing such panels, people always ask do solar panels degrade in storage. Well, solar panels do not degrade when they are not in use and are in storage. However, they do undergo degradation of about 1% annually.
Additionally, solar panels may also degrade as a result of sun exposure and regular wear and tear. Your solar panels may not degrade because of storage but for some other reasons.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
After learning do solar panels degrade in storage, let’s learn about the lifespan of solar panels. Solar panels can easily work for about 25 to 30 years. Your panels may also provide power for much longer than 25-30 years. 25-30 years after installation is just the useful life of a solar system.
The world’s first modern solar panel is still producing power even at the age of 60. Although solar panels are predicted to last a couple of decades, it doesn’t imply that they will stop working after that specified time. Instead, it implies that the energy output of the panels will drop significantly over time. After this, let’s find out what happens to solar panels after 25 years.
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What Happens to Solar Panels After 25 Years?
According to industry norms, the useful life of solar panels is about 25-30 years. After these years, the solar panels won’t stop working suddenly; rather, their performance will gradually drop.
Even after reaching the end of its useful life, a solar panel can still produce electricity for you. The useful life of a solar panel ends when its efficiency drops below 80%. The panels aren’t worthless at this stage, they’ll still produce electricity for you but at a decreased efficiency. So, this is what happens to solar panels after 25 years. After this, let’s try to learn about solar panel degradation calculation and some solar panel degradation calculators.
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How to Do Solar Panel Degradation Calculation? What is Solar Panel Degradation Calculator?
Solar panel degradation is the process where solar panels become less effective than before. If you see that your solar panel efficiency has decreased over time, it is also due to solar panel degradation. For doing solar panel calculations, you’ll need to know about the annual kWh production of your solar system. You can use a photovoltaic production meter to measure and record the kWh production.
For instance, let’s assume the following about your solar system-
If you assume that all these variables are held constant, then the annual degradation rate will be the percent difference between each year’s production.
Year 2 degradation= 100*(100,000-99,000)/100,000= 1%
Year 3 degradation= 100*(99,000-98,000)/99,000= 1.01%
Year 4 degradation= 100*(98,000-97,000)/98,000= 1.02%
Year 5 degradation= 100*(97,000-96,000)/97,000= 1.03%
This is the easiest way of solar panel degradation calculation. If you don’t want to do a manual calculation, you can for online solar panel degradation calculators.
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How to Check If Your Solar Panel has a Problem?
If notice some problems with your solar panel and see that its performance has significantly decreases, there are a few ways by which you can diagnose the actual problem. Initially, do a visual checkup of your solar panels for any obvious signs of dirt build-up or failure. Often, dirt-build results in mold growth on the solar panels which can lead to poor performance. In such a scenario, you just need correctly wash the panels with a soft broom and water. Additionally, check if nearby trees have shaded your solar panels.
If you have solar with an app or web-based monitoring, it will be easier to compare the daily solar generation with previous months, days, and even weeks. This will help you analyze if there is a significant change or decline in the performance of the solar panels. Weather, seasons, and climate can also impact solar panels. Additionally, check whether the circuit breaker in the switchboard has not tripped off and if the inverter has obvious faults.
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How to Extend the Life of Solar Panels?
Follow these measures to extend the life of your solar panels-
1. Arrange the panels at the right angle: For optimum benefits, the solar panels should be positioned at an accurate angle. Go for an angle that receives the maxim amount of sunlight throughout the year.
2. Clean the panels: Damage and degradation can be avoided by keeping the panels properly clean.
3. Use a solar concentrator: A solar concentrator is a very important part of any solar-powered system. Its job is the focused sunlight to turn it into energy. It prevents waste during conversion.
4. Use a backup battery: A backup battery lowers the burden on a solar panel and allows you to change many devices at once.
5. Regular inspection: It’s very necessary to regularly check your solar panels to detect any potential issues and faults early on. By maintaining and repairing solar panels, you can avoid any minor issue from becoming more serious and costly. You should check for exposed wires, cracks, broken panels, and sagging racks. Get professionals to handle the repairs for these damages.
Degradation is an unavoidable aspect of owning a solar panel. Now that you know why do solar panels degrade, you should have also realized that nothing in this world lasts forever. However, you can still extend the lifespan of your panels by using high-quality components. Proper maintenance and reliable servicing will also keep your solar panel healthy for a lot of time.
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