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Solar Panel Failure Rates

By Benjamin Strusnik April 13, 2022

Solar Panel Failure Rates

Before anything else, solar panels are considered to be a huge financial investment. As such, it's only natural for prospective buyers to feel the need to take the failure rates of these solar panels into account. 

In this article, we will be discussing solar panels in greater detail to better understand how and why they might fail, as well as the rate at which such failures generally occur.

Solar Panel Failure Rates

A study done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that out of the 54,500 solar panels installed from 2005 to 2015 there was only a 0.5% failure rate, which equates to about 5 failed solar panels out of 10,000 per year.

This means you’re not particularly likely to run into problems with your solar panels provided you buy a quality product.

What are Solar Panel Failure Rates

Another testament to the durability of solar panels can be found in the 2017 hailstorm incident in Denver, Colorado. The hailstorm, that caused significant damage to the Colorado Mills Mall, hit the NREL with its 3,168 solar panels directly in the line of fire.

Miraculously, out of all 3,168 solar panels on location, only one was damaged and the rest of the panels performed as they normally would after the storm cleared.

How Does Solar Energy Work?

Solar energy is made into a power source through the conversion of the sun’s UV rays into usable electricity. This is done using solar panels that are made up of individual photovoltaic (PV) cells made of silicone, which absorbs the light from the sun.

The solar energy captured by the solar panels is sent to the inverter where it gets converted from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) so that it can be used by the household.

This conversion is important because while direct current is only able to flow in a single direction, alternating current can flow in multiple directions, which allows you to use it to power multiple appliances.

Solar panels can generally last for more than 25 to 30 years, all while providing clean and sustainable energy for your home. 

Although, despite their general longevity, solar panels aren't guaranteed to last forever. As with all other technologies, there are instances in which they might fail. 

Keeping an eye on your solar panels and carrying out solar panel repair and maintenance occasionally will keep your panels going for a few extra years.

What Causes Solar Panels to Fail?

Rough Weather Conditions

Since solar panels are meant for the outdoors, it's a given that they'd be exposed to and at the mercy of any rough weather your region might be subjected to.

What Causes Solar Panels To Fail

Severe weather could stop your solar panels from working, but there are some things you can do to keep them safe.

Hailstorms

Hail is a common concern for those who are thinking about investing in solar energy. This is understandable since hail has been known to cause quite a lot of damage to property and infrastructure.

As to whether or not this concern is a relevant one. The answer is yes. However unlikely it may be, it is indeed possible for solar panels to be damaged by hail. While it might not stop your panels from working entirely, hail is a major reason that solar panels degrade.

Before entering the market, most solar panels undergo testing to withstand hailstones of about 1 inch in diameter falling at 50 miles per hour. While these tests guarantee a certain level of hail resistance, hailstones have been recorded to be as large as 6 inches in diameter.

So while solar panels are hail-resistant for the most part, the slim possibility of hail damage is still prevalent.

High Temperatures

Although solar panels may last for more than 25 to 30 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won't slowly degrade during that time.

Despite being a necessary aspect of a solar panel's functionality, constant exposure to sunlight and heat can eventually cause damage to the silicon photovoltaic cells, which leads to degradation and lowers the energy production capabilities of the panels.

Solar Panel Failure

A common misconception about solar energy is that a warmer climate makes for more efficient energy production. The truth is the exact opposite. When the solar panels reach a temperature above 149 degrees Fahrenheit, they will slowly start losing efficiency.

Flexible solar panels, in particular, are prone to damage from high temperatures. The flexible and moldable elements of the panel don’t hold up well to extreme temperatures and can come loose or completely degrade.

So, if you’re living somewhere where it routinely gets over 85 degrees, you might want to think about investing in a rigid panel instead.

Solar experts at the NREL say that while degradation overtime is unavoidable, solar panel manufacturers are constantly trying to find ways to slow down the degradation process.

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