A few years back, I recall meeting the head of a prominent global solar cell/module company.
Both of us were waiting our respective turns to make a presentation to a large Indian corporate, and we started talking while thus waiting.
Many things he mentioned about his company’s panels were no news to me. I knew they made some of the best panels and had perhaps the highest efficiency, at least at that time.
But what really was news to me was what he said about the life of his company’s panels.
He said while they gave warranties for efficiency and performance (degradation etc) only 25 years, his company’s could work well for over 40 years. And at efficiencies of over 75% even after the 40th year.
In fact, he said some of the other high quality panels worldwide could have similar characteristics.
It is thus not surprising that some premium solar panel brands worldwide have started providing warranties beyond 25 years, and some up to 30 years.
Imagine. You are putting up a solar power plant after having computed complicated stuff like LCOE, project IRRs etc., with the assumption that the solar power plant lifetime is 25 years, but the panels (at least the high quality ones) can continue producing power for perhaps a decade longer.
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Now, many references and analyses (see here, here and here) do suggest that good quality solar panels last many years beyond 25. However, as this perspective from Cleantechnica argues, it is not the life of the solar panel alone that is relevant, it is the cost of replacement of the rest of the components in a solar power system: “Perhaps a far better question might be “What are the estimated maintenance or replacement costs for a solar energy system?”, because while the solar panels themselves probably won’t need replacing anytime soon, the inverter (which converts the DC from the panels into AC for feeding into the home’s outlets and the grid) may need to be. The average inverter warranty ranges from 10 to 15 years, and unlike solar panels, will not just slowly get more inefficient, but will instead just quit working. However, while that’s usually the case with a central inverter (which handles the output of all the panels), a newer type, the so-called ‘micro-inverters’, are installed or included with each solar panel, and are said to have a much longer lifespan (up to 25 years), and could last for decades as well.”
So, OK, it is not just the lifetime of solar panels alone that matters. Still, it is indeed nice to know that the panels can continue producing power for you if you want them to, long after the 25th year!