How Durable are Solar Panels?

By Kami Turky

Last Updated:

Investing in solar panels and committing to harnessing energy from the sun is an important step many individuals take to get off the grid or use it for specialized applications. 

One of the many benefits of using solar panels is the positive impact of clean energy production on the environment

If money and time will be spent to set these units up, it’s probably essential to understand how durable they are to get the most out of the purchase.

Exploring this question can help a consumer know more about buying these units.

Understanding Solar Panel Manufacturing

One of the first places to start when investigating the durability of solar panels is the manufacturing process used to create them. Typically, each panel is manufactured by utilizing solar cells that fit inside a sturdy glass enclosure, acting as protection. 

Below the top layer of glass, a section of insulation and a back sheet is placed. These offer protection for the panels and strengthen this part of the unit.

Elements like humidity and heat can be highly detrimental to the functionality of a solar panel. Placing insulation and other materials in the first line of protection helps reduce the onset of these types of problems.

The bottom side of a solar panel is its most vulnerable area. During the design process, it receives the least amount of material designed to help withstand impact.

Often, if a panel breaks in this area, it’s usually due to some form of negligence. 

During the installation process, if this area isn’t handled correctly, it may lead to breakage. Treating each unit with as much care as possible should be completed when installed or removed to help avoid hurting the panel.

Standards for durability have been steadily increasing throughout the years as technology improves.

In March 2021, the United States Department of Energy announced a plan to improve solar panel technologies with an influx of almost $128 million of funding. 

One of the areas being focused on included the manufacturing process, helping to increase lifespan and longevity.

Fortunately, industry standards have advanced to the point where solar panels last 20 to 25 years or greater.

 However, that number is trying to be increased as innovation continues to improve the durability and resiliency of solar technology.

The U.S. Department of Energy indicates that if there is a problem with a panel, it usually occurs due to power degradation in the control system.

Location Plays a Role in Durability

One factor affecting the durability of solar panels is the location where they are placed.

The layer of glass surrounding the solar cells is relatively thin. Having one or more units located in an area where there is a danger of being damaged is not advised. Falling rocks or tree branches can quickly break a solar panel, making it unusable. 

When utilizing a standalone system, it may be best to monitor it closely and consider the potential threats in the area, especially if the solar panels are being used low to the ground.

For example, animals, like goats, can cause damage to panels by jumping on them. Conversely, if animals gnaw on the cables both they and your system may be harmed.

Maintenance Is Essential

The Department of Energy recommends making a habit of checking solar panels regularly to help ensure functionality and durability. Analyzing all of the system’s components and controls is a significant factor in ensuring it continues to work correctly. 

Spending between 8 to 16 hours may be required to perform the type of maintenance needed. Doing so begins with a general check, including removing bird droppings and dust from the panels. 

Performing more significant and complex tasks will usually be best completed by hiring a professional. Their knowledge and experience should make it more efficient to handle any difficult tasks.

Taking advantage of a warranty can be an excellent way to concern the average of parts and labor if there is a problem.

Environmental Factors Must Be Considered

Environmental conditions and the weather have a significant amount of impact on the durability of a solar panel. Most panels include controls to keep them at a safe, even temperature. 

Exposing a panel to extreme weather conditions will affect their longevity. Placing a system in an area where there is an extremely high temperature regularly will likely affect the durability of a solar panel. 

Other environmental elements should also be considered during placement. Is the area frequented by high winds or violent storms?

If so, what are the odds of having a piece of debris fly into a solar panel, damaging its exterior and interior components? Paying attention to this factor is essential in keeping each panel protected.

Compared to other industries, such as automotive, solar panels are still relatively young. Understanding the variables associated with the longevity and durability of a solar panel is still being learned. 

Manufacturers can look at the effect of using different types of glass, metal and plastic. However, testing materials can take time.

Knowing how different weather conditions affect these units requires several years of study to derive the appropriate figures. 

Running computer models can help speed up this process, but testing each component in real-world conditions will usually supply the most accurate data.

Increasing the Lifespan of a Solar Panel

Generally, most solar panels are highly durable and come with an excellent warranty.

During the manufacturing process, each panel is passed through a rigorous process of quality control mechanisms to help ensure its ability to work correctly. 

The tests conducted are completed to provide the best quality possible. Manufacturers know that solar panels being sold may be used in harsh environments where extreme hail, rain and wind are present. 

Inspecting a solar panel system regularly is recommended. Removing any debris that has accumulated will likely help safeguard against future problems and keep them running correctly for years.

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products. He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations. When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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