Solar energy always improving, and with these developments comes amplified proficiency and durability. Like any usage or utility, solar panels have a limited life cycle. They usually see 25+ years of endeavor before ramping down, with the probable for an even lengthier life cycle in the right atmosphere. In fact, some collections from the 70-80’s are still soaking up the sun and producing clean energy 35+ years later. So why are most manufacturer guarantees 25 years? Indeed, there are a variety of outside factors that can shorten your array’s life cycle and lead to early degradation. Ahead, we examine these effects and outline what you might be able to do to minimize their impact.
COMPLICATIONS DURING INSTALLATION.
The mission to maximize your array’s life span is one that actually begins before you even purchase an array. Solar panels themselves are not inherently fragile, however, as with any solid system the connections and overall structure of your array are not to be overlooked. Mounting solar panels is a long-term investment, and you are not just paying for the panels, but the entire system that supports them. Paradoxically, despite the panel’s stability, they actually face their biggest threat during the installation process where careless installers can step on the panels throughout the course of the job. Precisely, the panels are rated to withstand this pressure, as most are made with the same tempered glass used for windshields. Though, repeated strain can still cause micro-fractures in the PV cells, ultimately chief to a quicker degradation of the panels as they are continually exposed to the elements and soiling.
OUTSIDE FACTORS THAT CAN POSE PROBLEMS.
The most common factor that clips a solar panel’s life time is soiling. Soiling losses refer to a panel’s power loss due to the basics like snow, dust, dirt and other elements that accumulate on them. Studies have shown that an average of 1 percent loss of solar radiation results from dust gathering on the surfaces of solar panels with a tilt of 30 degrees (with the maximum loss at 4.7 percent). Additionally, businesses may be more inclined to face soiling losses due to the surfaces on which the panels are mounted.
While the weather is generally responsible for the soiling of panels, it can also be much more disastrous. The potential for a storm to trigger harm from nearby trees or other constructions that have the potential to fall on the solar panels, can’t be overlooked in the process of installing your array. Compounding this issue is the potential for local wildlife to use nearby trees or other structures as a pipeline to your roof.
These seemingly harmless critters are responsible for a notable amount of damage to panels each year. First, birds are inclined to nest in the dry cover beneath the panels. Naturally, with their presence comes an expected degree of grime from droppings that not only inhibits efficiency, but can also cause long-term damage if left untreated. The next most likely culprit, and far more destructive of the group, are rodents. Their tendency to chew or gnaw as their teeth are growing means that the wiring in an array looks like the perfect relief to a squirrel on the roof. Unfortunately, this can mean costly repairs that are rarely limited to a single panel.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
So what can future and existing solar owners do to extend their array’s life time, and eventually maximize their investment?
SMART DECISION MAKING FROM DAY ONE.
First, potential property owners considering an array should do their homework to ensure they trust their investment in the right hands. When looking for a solar provider, you’ll want to make sure they have a steady track record of successful installations for businesses or organizations similar to yours. Companies should be able to provide you with a portfolio of completed projects, and will be eager to provide references to corroborate their success over time. If you’re up for it, even consider checking industry publications for featured projects, or look at the company’s rating on sites like the BBB if you’re still unsure. Another tell-tale sign of a company who is invested in your array’s success is the presence of a service and operations division. The intent to maintain your array for its lifespan is a good sign that they plan on standing by their work for years to come.
ACTIVE OWNERSHIP IS KEY.
Actively participating in an Operations and Maintenance Services program is a smart idea for any solar owner and offers even greater benefits for the owner’s ROI. We touched on the adverse effects local wildlife can have on your array, and a big piece to mitigating that damage is knowing when it’s happening. Arrays without proper oversight can easily have damages escalate beyond repair before seeing the effects reflected on their energy bills.
When it comes to soiling, solar panels (like most appliances) must be well maintained and cleaned in order to maintain optimum efficiency. Of course, like anything, you can do just as much harm to the array with improper cleaning methods. So be sure to do your homework and find a trustworthy company to service the array for you as they’ll have all the skills and expertise you need.
In following simple yet significant safeguards, businesses can increase the lifespan of their solar systems well past their warrantied 25 years. As the number one commercial installer in Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on our installation and maintenance services that generate ideal results on each of our projects – enabling our customers (and the environment) to experience the advantages of solar for as long as possible.