Portable solar panels allow you to generate electricity anywhere you have sunlight. Many people use their portable solar power systems only occasionally. You might be curious about what would happen to your solar panels when kept unused.
Solar panels can technically go bad while in storage, reducing power output. Panels degrade due to sunlight exposure. As a result, solar panels should be kept in the dark when not in use. Moreover, portable solar panels should be protected from adverse weather elements while in storage.
In this article, I’ll explain how solar panels can go bad while in storage. You’ll also learn how to protect your portable solar panels when not in use to maximize their lifespan.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last in Storage?
Solar panels have a standard lifespan of 25 to 30 years. They can last many more years when not in service and appropriately stored.
The durability of solar panels is affected by factors such as:
- Product Quality
- Weather elements
- Manner of handling
Most panels will continue to produce energy long after their standard performance-warranty lifespan, albeit at reduced efficiency.
What Does Solar Panel Degradation Mean?
Solar panels degrade over time, generating less electricity as they age. Solar panel degradation rate ranges from 0.3% to 1%, depending on product quality. Premium panels have a high upfront price tag but degrade at the lowest rate.
As a result, premium solar panels offer a longer lifespan than conventional panels.
What Does a 0.3% Solar Panel Degradation Rate Look Like?
The solar panel degradation rate is calculated annually. As a result, the degradation rate shows a yearly drop in the panel’s energy output.
Therefore, a panel degrading at the rate of 0.3% would still produce energy at 92.5% of its original level after 25 years. The panel’s output would still be a solid 91% of the original level after 30 years. This panel’s output would take over 100 years to drop below 70% of its first-year level.
What Does a 1% Degradation Rate Look Like for Solar Panels?
A panel degrading at the rate of 1% would have its output decline to 75% of its original level after 25 years. After 30 years, the output would be down to 70%. The output would drop by half from the first year level after 50 years. The panel would be useless after 100 years.
What Causes Solar Panel Degradation?
Various factors ranging from manufacturing quality to weather elements, contribute to solar panel degradation. Let’s first look at their structure to understand how solar panels degrade.
The front part of a solar panel consists of solar cells made of silicon semiconductors. An average panel contains dozens of solar cells. The cells absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. A thin sheet of glass covers the solar cells to provide protection.
The bottom of the panel, called the backsheet, is made of durable plastic. The backsheet prevents water, soil, and other foreign materials from entering the panel from behind.
A junction box at the bottom of the panel protects its electrical wires from damage. A frame made of metal or plastic holds the various solar panel components together.
A handle may be built into the panel frame. Moreover, the kickstand for mounting a portable solar panel also attaches to the frame.
Here’s a look at a few factors that cause solar panels to degrade:
The Sun Is a Double-Edged Sword for Solar Panels
Although solar panels need the sun to produce electricity, they aren’t entirely happy basking in the sun. Sun exposure weakens the panels little by little, causing their efficiency to diminish over time.
Here’re a few ways solar panels degrade from sunlight exposure:
Light-Induced Degradation of Solar Panels
Solar panels suffer damage called Light-Induced Degradation (LID) in their first few hours of sunlight exposure. The LID can cause a one-time loss of 1% to 3% in solar panel efficiency.
The degree of LID damage is tied to product quality, especially the quality of materials used to make the solar cells.
This issue affects the silicon solar cells that capture sunlight to produce energy. It results from UV light causing electrical resistance in the panel’s silicon semiconductor components.
The electrical resistance reduces current flow through the solar cells, decreasing the panel’s output efficiency. Although solar panels with organic silicon materials have higher efficiency, they’re more vulnerable to UV damage.
Solar Panel Packaging Materials Deteriorate in the Sun
The sun’s harmful UV light causes the aging of solar panel packaging materials. The deterioration can be seen in the separating module covering, cracking of the backsheet, and discoloring of the frame and other exposed parts.
When a panel’s covering materials deteriorate, they fail to shield the inner components from adverse weather elements effectively.
Potential Induced Degradation of Solar Panels
The potential-induced degradation (PID) issue stems from the panel’s high voltage potential difference. It occurs when there’s a high potential difference between the solar cells and other parts of the module, such as the glass surface covering and the metal frame.
The potential difference causes a current leakage that pollutes the cells and leads to a power loss. The PID effect can result in up to 20% loss in panel efficiency.
While light-induced degradation affects all solar panels, the potential-induced degradation phenomenon only affects some. Many manufacturers of premium panels build their products with materials to mitigate the PID effect.
The PID damage can be severe in high humidity and temperature conditions.
Excessive Heat Hurts Solar Panels
Although solar panels are designed to work in the sun, excess heat can damage them. For example, high temperatures can cause materials that insulate the panel’s internal components to separate.
When solar cells are exposed to adverse elements as a result of a defective casing of the panel, they can break down and stop working.
Moreover, a solar panel’s output will decline under extremely high temperatures. As a result, panels will produce less electricity than usual in heatwave conditions.
Dramatic Temperature Swings Wear Out Solar Cells
Thermal cycling degrades solar panels. This happens when panels are subject to dramatic temperature changes.
A solar panel’s materials expand when it’s hot and contract when it’s cold. A sudden change between temperature extremes can cause a panel’s cells to crack, making them less effective in generating electricity.
Moreover, dramatic changes between temperature extremes can cause soldered components of the module to detach. A loss of connections in the internal parts can also cause a solar panel to stop working.
Strong Wind Can Shorten a Solar Panel’s Lifespan
Although solar panels are designed to withstand high wind, extreme wind can damage them. Powerful wind can cause the flexing of solar panels, leading to cracks that can weaken their performance.
Heavy Snow Can Damage Your Solar Panels
Solar panels can withstand snowfalls, but heavy snow cover can damage the panels. A heavy snow buildup can exert excessive weight on the panels and cause cracks. A crack on the glass surface or frame can reduce the panel’s efficiency and lifespan. For example, a cracked surface would capture less sunlight to convert into electricity.
Water Leaks Can Corrode or Short-Circuit the Panel
Although solar panels are waterproof and can withstand heavy rainfall, a deteriorated covering can leak water into the internal structure.
If water or moisture gets into a panel’s inner parts, it can cause corrosion of the components and compromise their functioning. Moreover, water leaks can cause short circuits and degrade the internal components.
Dust and Dirt Can Degrade Solar Panels
Dust and dirt buildup on a solar panel’s surface can reduce sunlight intake and decrease electricity output. Dust and dirt can also seep into the panel’s internal part through a defective junction box and damage the components.
For example, components may short circuit due to dust inside the panel casing.
Solar Panels Can Degrade Due to Poor Handling
Portable solar panels are prone to accidental falls. A fall from a high level can cause cracks on a panel’s surface, reducing its ability to absorb sunlight to produce electricity at its rated level.
Moreover, falls can weaken a panel’s protective casing, potentially making it susceptible to dust and moisture leaks. Furthermore, falls can cause loose connections in the electrical wires and make them unable to function properly.
Solar panels can also break and stop working if subject to excess weight in storage. Also, storing panels together with sharp objects can cause surface scratches that reduce efficiency.
How To Store Solar Panels When Not in Use/h4>
While there’s little you can do to stop the light-induced degradation of solar panels, you can prevent or slow down other degradation factors.
Here’re a few steps you may take to prevent your portable solar panels from deteriorating while in storage:
Store the Panels in a Dark Place
Since the sun’s UV light is a significant cause of degradation in solar panels, you can reduce its effect by storing your panels in a dark place. Storing the panels in a cardboard box can be a great measure to shield them from degrading sunlight.
Shield the Panels From Extreme Heat
Excess heat can damage the solar panel’s protective covering and expose the internal parts to adverse elements. Moreover, sharp temperature fluctuations can cause the panel’s silicon semiconductors to crack and become less effective in absorbing sunlight.
Therefore, you can prolong your panel’s lifespan by storing them in a temperature-controlled condition.
Keep the Panels Away From Moisture and Water
As long as they’re intact, solar panels can withstand water and moisture for many years. However, if the panel’s casing has been compromised, it can let in water that may corrode and damage the internal components.
It helps to keep your panels away from water, especially if they aren’t exposed to sunlight that can evaporate the water.
Protect the Panels From Dust
Many people keep their portable solar panels in the garage when not in use. If you have other activities in the garage, the place can have dust and dirt buildup. The dust can get into the solar panel and damage it.
As a result, you should consider purchasing a protective case, such as the Zeroair Solar Panels Storage Bag (available on Amazon.com). This waterproof, dustproof bag is ideal for storing or carrying the Jackery 100-watt Solar Panel Kits.
Why Keeping Solar Panels Unused for a Long Period Isn’t a Great Idea
Solar panels can last as long as possible in storage and maintain efficiency if their exposure to degrading factors is minimized. However, you may not want to keep your panels unused for many years. Here’s why:
Future Solar Panels Will Be More Efficient
Solar power technology is advancing rapidly. Current solar modules are significantly more efficient in converting sunlight into electricity than modules that existed only a few years ago. You can expect future modules will be even more efficient.
As a result, you’d be holding onto dated technology if you keep your solar panels unused for many years.
Solar Panels Be More Durable and Cheaper in the Future
Technology advancement is improving solar panel efficiency and durability. As a result, future panels will have a more extended warranty and lifespan.
A long lifespan means homes and businesses can hold on to their panels for more years. Meanwhile, more companies are joining the panel manufacturing business, increasing the supply. As a result, purchasing new panels should be cheaper in the coming years.
Here’re a few things you could do with your idle portable solar panels:
Generate Electricity To Power Home Appliances
Instead of stashing away your camping solar panels for years, use them to generate electricity to power your home appliances.
Portable solar panels can power your security cameras, garden lights, and television, depending on the capacity. Moreover, portable solar panels can run water sprinklers, charge car batteries, and power coffee machines.
You can reduce your utility bills by using your camping solar panels at home. Besides saving money, using the panels at home also helps reduce your carbon footprint.
Donate Your Unused Solar Panels
Although solar panels can last many years in storage, they work better in the field. If you have panels that would lie around unused for many years, consider donating them.
About a billion people still live without electricity at home. Various groups accept solar panel donations to support expanding access to electricity. The nonprofit Good Sun, for instance, accepts donations of new and used solar panels.
Solar panels can go bad in storage if exposed to degrading elements such as UV light and extreme heat. Moisture can also damage solar panels if their protective covering is compromised.
Your solar panels can last as long as you want in storage if kept in the dark and shielded from excess heat and dust.
However, it would be better to use or donate the panels rather than keep them in storage for many years. While solar panels can last a century in storage, future panels will be better in efficiency and cost.
- Santan Solar: Why Do Solar Panels Lose Efficiency?
- Amazon: Zeroair Solar Panels Storage Bag
- Science Daily: Daylight Damage To Photovoltaics
- Green Solver: Potential Induced Degradation (PID) – What Is It?
- Ratedpower: Why and How Do Solar Panels Degrade?
- Paradise Solar Energy: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- Sunpower: Why Degradation Rate is Important When Choosing Solar Panels
- Solar United Neighbors: What Causes Solar Panel Performance To Decline
- 14 Ways to Put Portable Solar Panels to Use in Your Home
- Quora: Can You Store Solar Panels Without Them Decaying?
- Reddit: Do Solar Panels Degrade Over Time If They Are Stored in a Dark Place?
- Battle Born Batteries: Dealing with Snow on Solar Panels
- Minute Man Prep: Portable Solar Panel Protective Storage & Carry Bag
- Bluetti Power: 14 Ways to Put Portable Solar Panels to Use in Your Home
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