5 Factors That Affect the Solar Panel’s Degradation Rate
Updated: Sep 13
Having no moving parts and requiring minimal maintenance, solar panels are generally reliable and trouble-free throughout their lifespan.
However, like any other product, solar panels can fail or underperform due to faulty materials or poor workmanship during the manufacturing process.
Apart from occasional manufacturing defects, it is normal for solar PV cells to experience slight degradation over time. Ideally, solar panels should operate efficiently for many years, enduring extreme weather conditions such as drastic temperature fluctuations, high humidity, rain, storms, strong winds, and the corrosive effects of salt in coastal areas.
The speed at which solar panels degrade over time is determined by several factors. Some of these factors are within the control of the manufacturer, while others are influenced by the installer and the owner.
The materials and components used in the solar panels, including the glass, aluminium frame, and solar cells, play a significant role in their longevity. Poor-quality materials may lead to breakage and damage over time. Some manufacturers might reduce the aluminium content in the frame to lower costs, resulting in a thinner and more vulnerable frame. While such panels may have a lower upfront cost, they may end up costing more in the long run due to a higher failure rate, necessitating frequent replacements.
Even if a panel is made with high-quality materials, how it is assembled can impact its lifespan, because not all materials work well together. When incompatible materials and components are present, they can accelerate light-induced degradation (LID) or potential-induced degradation (PID) in solar panels by affecting oxidation levels or voltage leakage.
Proper storage and handling of solar panels before and during installation are crucial to prevent damages. Microcracks, scratches, and improper electrical connections during installation can significantly affect the panel's performance. It's also crucial for the installer to make sure that the panels are placed on the roof with the optimal angle and clamping to get the most out of the self-cleaning and mechanical resistance.
While solar panels require minimal maintenance, it's essential to monitor them for any build-up of dust and debris that could interfere with the electricity output. Additionally, panel owners should inspect connections, cabling, and inverters on a routine basis to ensure none are loose or broken.
Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, hurricanes, and snowstorms, can accelerate age-related degradation of solar panels. Dramatic temperature changes can cause components to contract and expand, leading to cracks and other damage. Heavy snowfall can put pressure on the surface, resulting in cracks, especially if the snow freezes. Hurricanes can also cause debris to fall and damage the panel surface.