In the United Kingdom, some homeowners delay going solar because they think photovoltaic (PV) technology isn’t durable enough for their needs.  The panels will work well for a while – but ultimately – their installation just won’t last.

This is wrong on so many counts.  But before diving into “solar durability,” it helps to understand how traditional electricity generation works. 

Most large-scale utility plants use the same basic concept.  They rely on kinetic or manual energy to power a turbine that sends a magnetic rod through copper coils.  As the magnet goes through these coils, an electric current is generated:

  • With nuclear, gas, oil, and coal power plants, the manual energy used to power this turbine comes from steam (i.e. heated water). 
  • With wind, tidal, and hydroelectric power plants, this manual energy comes from nature (i.e. wind, waves, or gravity).

Solar power works very differently. 

When sunlight hits a PV panel, it loosens up electrons.  And these free electrons move in sync to create electrical current.  It’s a bit more complicated than that, but this is the general idea.

The point is, there are no moving parts.  Your panels sit on your rooftop silently absorbing free sunshine to create electrical current.  And because there are no moving parts, there’s nothing to physically break. 

This is why solar panel manufacturers can afford to offer 25+ year warranties for their products.  PV technology can last for decades – with minimal maintenance and upkeep.  By contrast, traditional power plants, generators, and engines require constant maintenance to function properly.

But How Long to Solar Panels Really Last?

In the UK, 25 years is the industry average for solar warranties.  And you should avoid any installers who try to sell you panels with shorter guarantees. 

But PV technology can last significantly longer than their official 25-year lifetimes.  Some installations from the 1970s are still producing power.  And remember that these panels were manufactured using processes and techniques that are now decades old. 

Using today’s technology, a well-installed solar installation can easily last 30 to 40 years.

And as covered in a previous article, regular maintenance and cleaning aren’t necessary.  It really is set it and forget it.  You won’t even be able to hear your solar panels working.

They’re as silent as sunshine.

Understanding Solar Panel Performance over Time

You can expect your installation to last for decades.  But you need to understand that all solar technologies lose a little bit of efficiency over time.  With each year, your PV panels will generate about half a percent less power.  And after 25 years, those panels will be 12.5% less efficient than they used to be.

Most solar warranties use a sliding scale to reflect this inevitable degradation.  By the time your installation is 25 years old, your panels are guaranteed to deliver 80% efficiency or higher.  This dwindling performance is automatically factored into all your costs, savings, and payback periods.  So there are never any surprises. 

To learn more about solar panel durability, request a free quote today.