What is the service life of solar panels and other components of solar power plants

Any SPP consists of several basic pieces of equipment, each of which has its own service life. It depends on the type of solar panels, inverter, controller and battery, as well as their operating conditions. The most expensive models are distinguished by the maximum durability. For this reason, the purchase of a kit is always associated with the search for the best price-quality ratio of all components included in it.

Solar panels lifespan

There is a huge range of classic and thin-film photovoltaic modules on the modern market. For the convenience of orientation, regardless of the type, they are divided into four classes (we wrote in more detail about the features of each class of solar panels here).

1. “Grade A”.

Top quality class. A distinctive feature is the complete absence of mechanical and structural defects. Producers – companies from the TOP-20 of the well-known world Tier-1 rating from Bloomberg. Best of all other options tolerate adverse operating conditions. The guaranteed service life of such solar cells is 12-15 years while maintaining 90% of the initial efficiency and 25-30 years – 80%.

2. “Grade B”.

Slightly inferior in quality to modules of the highest category. It is almost impossible to visually determine the differences, therefore, the product class can be rechecked only by technical documentation. They are made mainly at the factories of the Celestial Empire. In the absence of force majeure conditions of use, they are able to serve the same 25 years with a loss of no more than 20% of efficiency.

3. “Grade C”.

The manufacturers of modules of this class are little-known Asian firms. They cost 25-30% less, but they are characterized by the presence of noticeable external defects. Theoretically, they retain acceptable performance for 10-15 years, but they can sharply degrade (the reason for this process was written here) and earlier. For a reliable SES, their purchase by specialists is strongly discouraged.

4. “Grade D”.

This segment includes used products as well as unclassified panels offered in the gray and black markets. It is not possible to predict the remaining time of their effective work.

Service life of inverters

The next essential element of the equipment of any solar station is an inverter. This device converts direct current from panels into alternating 220 volts supplied to consumer devices.

Structurally, inverters for solar panels differ slightly from each other. The difference between the models is mainly in functionality and reliability. For this reason, the service life of premium and budget inverters is approximately the same and is 10-15 years. However, there are innovative developments that can extend the operating time to 20 years or more. Manufacturers’ warranty obligations usually indicate 5-7 years.

Much less, this element of the SES can serve only as a result of premature failure under force majeure circumstances.

Battery life

In autonomous and hybrid SPPs, the presence of a battery is mandatory, since the system will not be able to supply energy around the clock without storage devices. In terms of technological design and duration of operation, the batteries differ from each other more than any other elements of the SES.

The following types of batteries can be used in solar power supply systems.

  1. Classic lead acid.
  2. AGM
  3. Gel based fillers.
  4. Li-On and technologically similar lithium-based.

The service life of a solar battery of the first type does not exceed 3-4 years, the second 5-7 years, the third – up to 12-15, the fourth – 20 years or more.

The listed types of drives differ significantly in their capabilities. However, due to the high cost of the most effective models for each project, a joint stock bank is selected, the acquisition of which is financially expedient. In more detail about which batteries are better for solar power plants, we have already written in the blog.

Life of charge controllers

For all SPPs using intermediate energy storage devices, a device is required that controls the speed and level of their charging, as well as discharging. In the absence of a controller, rechargeable batteries quickly fail, and the time of their effective use is significantly reduced.

These devices are very diverse. The simplest of these are conventional circuit breakers, and therefore the lifespan of such a controller is almost infinite.

More sophisticated devices use a range of electronic components and their lifetimes are much shorter. Basically, manufacturers set a warranty for programmable controllers from 5 to 8 years. Although there are copies with a 10 or even 12-year warranty period.

How to extend the life of solar panels and other components

There are different ways to maximize the effective operating time of any SPP. Some of them should be taken care of in advance, even before starting the station. The rest must be used throughout the entire period of its further functioning.

  1. The first and foremost condition is a competent selection of equipment and its qualified installation on a roof or ground / wall, etc. Any mistake or unaccounted for nuance can cost the owner huge financial losses. For this reason, it is strongly recommended to entrust the installation and commissioning to professionals.
  2. The system must be equipped with multi-level protection against voltage surges. SPDs (surge voltage protection devices) are installed in three places – the input ASU, the switchboard and directly in front of the equipment elements.
  3. The integrity of the panels is at greatest risk as they are always located outdoors. For protection from strong winds when installed above the batteries, a grill or fence can be installed around the batteries. Roofing options are often additionally laminated with a special film, protecting the batteries from mechanical damage.
  4. The lifespan of solar panels will increase if there is a small gap between the work surface and the roof plane. This will provide good ventilation and the panels will not overheat.
  5. For the same reason, at different times of the year, it is necessary to properly care for solar panels (for example, in summer and in hot weather, it is recommended to periodically water the helium surfaces with water from a hose, this will not only clean the cells of dust, but also increase the efficiency of the system by reducing the temperature).