Will Thin Film Solar Cells Really Work for 25 Long Years?

Sweet Answer from Solar Mango: (updated Jul 2015)

That’s a good question indeed.

The very term thin film brings to our minds solar modules so thin that they flap in the wind, and who knows, could get torn off :-). As a result, many newcomers to the solar sector have a feeling that thin film solar modules cannot withstand the harsh environmental conditions for 25 long years.

At this stage of thin film module evolution, Solar Mango can only say that thin films are not exactly so vulnerable. While the module might contain a thinner film of semiconductor material (which is why it is called a thin film solar module), it does not mean that the overall module is any less robust than a typical crystalline solar module. Many thin film modules used in external solar farms have glass coverings and backsheet protection similar to what crystalline panels have.

Besides, commercially popular thin film modules have been tested in the lab using techniques such as accelerated testing and these have shown that thin film modules can indeed have lives upto (and even beyond) 25 years.

The above said however, the fact is, as of 2015, there are no prominent thin film installations which are older than perhaps 10 years. As a result, we have little empirical evidence for thin film module lifetime, something where the crystalline modules score well as they have many installations that are over 20 years old, and the crystalline solar panels are fully alive and kicking.

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