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Lifespan of Solar PV Systems

The lifespan of a photovoltaic system can vary depending on the quality of the components, environmental conditions, and actual maintenance

The installation of a photovoltaic system is an increasingly popular choice for sustainable energy production. One of the questions that arises when considering embracing this system is how long a photovoltaic system can last.

When referring to lifespan, we mean the period during which the energy produced and the savings obtained cover the operating and maintenance costs.

Since photovoltaics represent a long-term investment, it is important to know the longevity of the materials that allow its operation and will degrade over time: solar panels, inverters, and storage batteries. These components have different lifespans, which we will analyze in this article.

The choice of modules, inverters, and batteries depends on the specific needs of the user and factors such as capacity, power, and number of charge cycles. To accurately calculate the electrical consumption profile based on the energy needs of the home, you can use a solar PV design software that allows you to optimize the design of photovoltaic systems based on the actual available surfaces and/or the energy needs of the user.

Lifespan of solar panels

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic modules, are devices that convert solar energy into usable electrical energy by harnessing the photovoltaic effect. They are composed of photovoltaic cells connected in series or parallel and positioned on the same support structure.

Lifespan refers to the useful life of the system, or the time it is cost-effective to keep it operational. On average, the useful life of a solar panel is about 25-30 years.

Generally, solar panels experience a loss of about 1% efficiency per year, reaching an average of 75% of the rated power after 25 years of operation. This means that after the first 10 years, the efficiency of the panels will be around 90%, while after 20 years it will be around 80%.

To maximize the lifespan of solar panels, it is essential to follow a plan of regular maintenance, include panel cleaning in routine practices, and continuously monitor the photovoltaic system to promptly identify and resolve any issues.

Factors affecting the lifespan of solar panels

Among the factors that affect the lifespan of solar panels are:

  • type and quality of solar panels: choosing high-quality solar panels is important to ensure greater durability and consistent performance over time;
  • regular maintenance and cleaning: periodic cleaning of solar panels is essential to ensure optimal energy production. Accumulations of dirt, dust, or debris can compromise the efficiency and lifespan of the panels;
  • weather conditions: climatic conditions, such as severe hailstorms or extremely hot or cold climates, can influence the lifespan of the panels and cause damage. In some situations, considering solar insurance may be advisable;
  • pollution levels: atmospheric pollution can contribute to the deterioration of solar panels. In areas with high pollution levels, regular panel cleaning becomes even more critical to maintain optimal performance;
  • absence of mechanical components: solar panels do not contain moving mechanical parts, reducing the risk of failures due to daily wear and tear.

Inverter Lifespan

The inverter plays a fundamental role in converting direct current into alternating current, allowing the use of the energy produced by solar panels for various household appliances or for feeding into the public grid for distribution.

Since the energy generated by solar panels is in the form of direct current (DC), the inverter is necessary to convert it into alternating current (AC) compatible with household uses and the electrical grid.

The photovoltaic inverter also performs other functions such as ensuring that the panels operate at their maximum capacity, thus optimizing their performance for greater efficiency in electricity production.

In addition, it plays a crucial role in the safety of the system and compliance with national regulations. It also ensures compatibility with a range of components, including storage systems, and offers the ability to monitor the operation and overall performance of the photovoltaic system.

The lifespan of the inverter of a photovoltaic system is generally over 10 years. In this case as well, the lifespan depends on various factors such as:

  • the quality of the component;
  • the type of devices installed;
  • the maintenance carried out over the years.

Microinverter Lifespan

Microinverters represent an innovation in the field of photovoltaic systems, offering significant advantages over traditional inverters. Positioned directly behind each photovoltaic solar module, microinverters perform the same function as conventional inverters but with notable differences.

One of the strengths of microinverters is the ability to optimize the performance of each individual solar panel. Unlike traditional inverters, where the performance of the entire panel string is influenced by the least efficient panel, microinverters allow each panel to operate at its maximum capacity, regardless of the conditions of the others.

Furthermore, microinverters offer greater flexibility in the installation and configuration of photovoltaic systems. Thanks to the fact that each panel has its own inverter, it is possible to design and install photovoltaic systems of various sizes and complexities, adapting them to the specific needs of the building or area where they are placed.

The lifespan of about 20 years is an additional advantage of this technology. This long warranty attests to the durability and reliability of microinverters over time. Moreover, numerous studies and field tests have shown that microinverters can last even beyond 20 years, contributing to the longevity and stability of photovoltaic systems.

Storage Battery Lifespan

Storage batteries, also known as accumulators or energy storage systems, allow excess energy produced by solar panels to be stored for use during hours when the panel is not in operation.

The longevity of photovoltaic storage batteries is directly related to the number of charge cycles: the more frequent the charges and discharges, the shorter the overall lifespan of the storage system.

High-quality storage batteries can offer a lifespan ranging from 10 to 20 years and are designed to support between 10,000 and 12,000 full charge cycles. In this case as well, the lifespan of these batteries can vary depending on the technology used and the operating conditions.

To ensure optimal maintenance of the batteries over time, it is essential to manage them correctly, storing them in a dry environment and, at times, protecting them from high temperatures with a dedicated cooling system.

Today, there are various types of photovoltaic batteries on the market, each with its own lifespan. The main types are:

  • lithium batteries: with higher efficiency and discharge capacity of up to 90%, ideal for maximizing energy self-consumption with an average lifespan of 10-12 years;
  • gel batteries: characterized by greater safety and resistance to extreme temperatures, but with a lower discharge capacity compared to lithium batteries;
  • stationary batteries: known for their reliability and longevity, ideal for industrial and commercial applications that require continuous and stable operation;
  • lead-acid batteries: characterized by an average lifespan of 3-5 years and a limited discharge capacity of 50-60%;
  • nickel batteries: with a higher charge and discharge capacity compared to lead-acid batteries.