How Long Do Solar Panels Last For?

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Solar panels harness the power of the Sun to convert solar energy, the most extensive and inescapable energy source on the planet, into electricity. The solar industry is one that is constantly growing and diversifying. Currently, there are enough solar installations in the USA to supply power to 16 million homes, and that number is only going to increase. But how long do solar panels actually last? If you’re worried about whether you’re going to be left in the dark (literally), here’s some information about the lifespan of solar panels to put your mind at ease.


Unfortunately, like anything else, solar panels do degrade, but at a very slow rate, usually below 1% per year. While their lifespan may vary based on different factors, the general consensus is that their “useful lifespan” is around 25 to 30 years. This doesn’t mean that they can only produce electricity for 25 years, it just means that the amount of electricity that they are able to produce has fallen below the level of what would be considered significant. However, there have been reports of high-quality solar panels maintaining an acceptable level of efficiency way past 25 years, even up to 40 years, albeit while slowly declining as they degrade. This also relates to how performance warranties are calculated. Most warranties guarantee an 80% (or more) performance output for 25 years. Basically, this means that before that 25-year mark, the solar panels are guaranteed to still produce at least 80% (or more) of their output capacity.


Regardless, keeping your solar panels well-maintained can increase their lifespan as well. While they are made to be very durable, as they are installed outdoors and thus constantly exposed to the elements, it is important to have them checked regularly by a professional to ascertain that there is no damage to any part of the panels. Additionally, it is essential to keep your solar panels clean and obstruction-free to ensure that they are exposed to enough sunlight to function at maximum capacity, especially in harsh weather conditions, as they can be blocked by debris such as leaves, dirt, and snow. Finally, and most importantly, ensure that you buy your solar panels from a reputable manufacturer, as cutting corners with manufacturing materials can lead to a faster rate of degradation.


On the flip side, if you’re worried about the environmental conscientiousness of discarding solar panels that have already lived out their serviceable lifespan, solar panels can actually be recycled! To avoid adding to the already growing piles of landfills around the world, at the end of their long lives, solar panels can be disassembled to their core materials and recycled separately to, essentially, make new solar panels. In the United States, you can turn in your old solar panels to companies such as Recycle PV or Cascade Eco Minerals, while some solar panel manufacturers offer their own recycling programs.


Silicon-based solar panels are made up of glass, aluminum, plastic, and silicon. Almost all of the glass and aluminum are melted down and reused, while the plastic is reused as a heat source for the recycling processes themselves. The silicon wafers are treated with acid, broken down, melted, and used to make silicon components for new solar panels. The extent to which solar panel materials can be recycled has the potential to create a self-sustainable industry, with the recycling of old solar panels generating the materials needed to manufacture new ones.


So, whether you’re looking to save on your electricity bill or save the planet, making the switch to renewable energy from fossil fuels undoubtedly helps in contributing to a cleaner, greener future for generations to come.


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