How long do solar panels last?

Solar PV, as I am sure you are aware, is a great investment for a home if you have the right space on your roof. We would thoroughly recommend it for a property where the installation is practical. In this blog we want to discuss some of the questions of longevity of the panels and what sort of performance you can expect over the years.

How long do the panels last?

UPDATE: The Feed-In Tariff is now closed for new applications. To find out about the new scheme designed to replace it, click here.

Solar panels actually have a really long life expectancy. Most panels will be guaranteed for 20 or 25 years, whilst the feed in tariff will pay you for the energy you produce for 20 years. Furthermore, modern panel systems should last even longer, producing electricity for 40 years in some cases.

There are some caveats to that of course. Over time, the efficiency of your panels will reduce, as the cells begin to degenerate. You probably won’t notice this for a long time, but every year your panels are going to produce a little bit less electricity. Over 40 years, this will make a big dent in the amount the system will produce, but some panels have been shown to stand up remarkably well, producing up to 80% of their original power after this time. Some studies have shown a decrease in output of just 0.2% per year, after an initial drop of 5% or so in the first year. That means a well looked after system is going to produce plenty of electricity for years to come, even after the guarantee has run out.

Damage to the panels can significantly reduce the lifespan as well. For example, if they are knocked about during installation or during maintenance, the seals can be compromised, and allow water into the contacts. Most panels are designed to deal with these sorts of issues by blocking off areas of damage from the system using blocking diodes, but each bit of damage is going to further impair the ability of the system to generate electricity.

Maintenance of solar PV

Solar really needs very little maintenance; it is very much a ‘fit and forget’ technology. One thing that will need work over the years is your inverter. Inverters have a life span of around 10 years, so these will need replacing at these time intervals to keep the system working. Micro inverters, which cost a little more to install initially, will last longer.

The panels themselves could well see some physical degradation – they can yellow over the years and start to look tired, but the functional performance is not going to drop massively. But who knows how cheap solar panels will be in 20 years – the way prices have decreased over the last few years, it may be worth your while installing a new system once your feed in tariff runs out.

Installing Solar PV

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