Are Solar Panels a Sustainable Product?

| 9/6/2016 12:58:00 PM

Tags: solar power, home energy, recylcing, waste management, sustainability, Vikram Aggarwal, Massachusetts,

solar panel lifespan and recycling

Installing a solar energy system on your home is a choice that can simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint and cut your electricity bill – the ultimate win-win in home energy. Your solar panels’ lifespan is long enough to produce decades of renewable energy for your home. Additionally, solar panel recycling options mean that once your system does finally reach the end of its life, you can be confident that your panels won’t end up in a landfill.

What is the Lifespan of Solar Panels?

The industry rule of thumb, based on advanced testing conducted by panel manufacturers, is that your solar panels have a useful lifespan of 25 to 30 years. However, “useful lifespan” doesn’t mean that they stop producing electricity after 25 years – it just means that their electricity production has declined by what manufacturers consider a significant amount.

A 2012 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that, on average, solar panel output falls by 0.8 percent each year. This means that in year two, your panels will operate at 99.2 percent of their original output; by the end of their 25-year “useful lifespan,” they will still be operating at 82.5 percent. In the years since this 2012 study has been conducted, more efficient technologies have been developed and many newer panels have just a 0.5 percent yearly decline in output.

In general, solar panels are extremely durable. Most manufacturers test their panels to confirm that they can withstand high winds and heavy snow loads, and many solar panels are specifically tested to ensure that they can withstand falling hail. Additionally, solar energy systems don’t usually have moving parts, and they require little to no maintenance

Solar panels also come with a few different warranties that can give you a sense of just how long you can expect your solar panel’s lifespan to be. Manufacturers will offer both an equipment warranty, to certify against manufacturing defects, and a performance warranty, to guarantee that your panels will produce a certain amount of electricity. Your solar panel’s performance warranty, which typically lasts 25 years, can give you a better sense of how much electricity to expect from your solar panel system over time.

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