The Longevity of Solar Panels is greatly exaggerated
Czech scientists have published a study revealing a significant overestimation of the lifespan of solar panels. Instead of the promised 20-25 years of operation, dozens of solar farms in the country have shown rapid degradation and damage as early as the 11th year of operation. Investors in solar projects need to take these findings into account to avoid being deceived in their profitability expectations in the solar energy sector.
According to the report, monitoring data from 85 solar power stations built in the Czech Republic between 2009 and 2010 showed that the main cause of panel degradation was delamination. The designers initially had no accurate understanding of the “technical capabilities” of the solar panels they purchased for the projects, leading to inflated promises. Additionally, the situation was aggravated by the desire to maximize profits while cutting construction costs.
“The service life of power stations built in 2009-2010 has now come to an end,” the researchers report. “The expected service life of photovoltaic power stations in the Czech Republic in 2009-2010 was 20-25 years. Today, after approximately 12 years, it has been revealed that this estimate was overly optimistic, and the actual service life is around half [of the stated duration].”
In analyzing the condition of the solar panels on the farms, the scientists used the Solarmon-2.0 monitoring system, which yielded similar results across all sites. While the researchers did not disclose information about the panel manufacturers, they stated that purchases were made from top-tier companies. All panels examined were installed at a 35-degree angle, and most were covered with EVA TPT laminate.
The reduction in the panel’s service life was also attributed to cost-saving measures, such as weakening the frames and reducing the distance between the frames and the panels. Additionally, the panels were connected in series to increase voltage, which contributed to the degradation processes.
“After the 11th year, the panel’s performance decreases to the extent that it needs to be completely replaced without renewing the silicone coating (or other repair measures),” the article states. However, in the first 10 years, the performance of the panels remained in line with the advertised specifications.
The researchers also conducted an economic analysis based on the monitoring data and found that the installations remained profitable, albeit with a significantly lower margin than initially planned.
“With the current relatively high electricity prices (end of 2022), the payback period for the power stations is significantly reduced to below 10 years, which would be sufficient to cover the investment costs in the current situation,” the statement reads. “However, any reduction in the panel’s service life leads to a decrease in the profitability of these investments.”
These findings echo a recent study by scientists from Ghana, who also found that the advertised lifespan of solar panels by manufacturers was noticeably overestimated.
- I'm Vasyl Kolomiiets, a seasoned tech journalist regularly contributing to global publications. Having a profound background in information technologies, I seamlessly blended my technical expertise with my passion for writing, venturing into technology journalism. I've covered a wide range of topics including cutting-edge developments and their impacts on society, contributing to leading tech platforms.
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