Solar Panel Efficiency Over Time

April 10, 2024

Solar panels are champions at slashing utility bills and producing eco-friendly energy. But what does the efficiency of solar panels rely on? Many believe that it all boils down to the quality of their photovoltaic (PV) cells. It rings true, but other factors influence solar panel efficiency over time.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the factors that affect the efficiency of solar panels and possible ways of boosting solar efficiency over time.

What Is the Efficiency of Solar Panels?

A solar panel’s efficiency rating tells you how good a solar panel is at converting sunlight into usable electricity. The higher the efficiency rating is, the more electricity that panel can generate.

Typically, home solar panels boast efficiency ratings ranging from 19% to 21%. However, advancements in solar technology are enabling more manufacturers to achieve efficiencies of 22% or higher. To put this progress into perspective, data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reveals that the average solar panel efficiency was a mere 14.1% in 2010, underscoring significant improvements in solar panel efficiency over time.

While a 22% efficiency rating may not initially seem remarkable, we should recognize that many systems operate at less than 100% efficiency. For instance, according to Penn State University, gasoline car engines typically operate at about 25% efficiency, while power plants manage just 36% efficiency. Thus, achieving 22% efficiency of solar panels represents a considerable advancement in harnessing energy from sunlight.

Let’s take a look at some of the most efficient solar photovoltaics. Maxeon leads the market in 2024 with the most efficient solar panels, boasting a maximum efficiency rating of 22.8%, which is quite remarkable. REC follows closely behind with its Alpha Pure-RX models, which can achieve an efficiency of up to 22.6%.

Here’s a list of the most efficient solar panels:

Solar Panel Model Solar Power Efficiency
SunPower Maxeon Residential AC 440 W 22.8%
REC Group Alpha Pure-RX 470 W 22.6%
Jinko Eagle G6 440 W 22.53%
Heliene 108 HC M10 TPC SL 22.49%
Yingli Panda 3.0 Pro 22.28%

How Much Do High-Efficiency Solar Panels Cost?

Opting for high-efficiency solar panels often comes with a heftier price tag, potentially adding over $2,000 to your overall PV system expenses. This means that a 7 kilowatt (kW) solar setup equipped with top-tier efficiency panels might cost around $23,100, whereas employing standard efficiency panels could bring the cost closer to $19,900.

However, the expense of top-notch solar panels is gradually declining, thanks to companies like Canadian Solar and LONGi. They produce top-quality panels with impressive efficiency ratings at a fraction of the price charged by premium brands such as SunPower. With these players rolling out more offerings, efficiencies could climb while solar panel costs stay relatively stable.

What Are the Factors That Affect the Efficiency of Solar Panels?

Solar power setups are seen as crucial tools in today’s energy game and for future generations. Solar energy efficiency is enhanced by environmental concerns, incentives, advancing technologies, and the imperative to replace fossil fuels with renewables to meet Paris COP goals and mitigate global warming.

A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is like a magic converter, turning sunlight into usable energy. To make sure solar efficiency is at its peak rate, we’ve got to consider a few things.

Temperature Surprisingly, when it’s cooler, the efficiency of solar panels is higher. But crank up the heat, and their performance drops fast.
Energy conversion efficiency Variations in solar panel types result in differing responses to light. So, if you reduce light reflection, it is likely to boost energy conversion efficiency.
Orientation, inclination, location, and weather conditions The correct consideration of these variants will help ensure that they produce maximum energy by being exposed to the most favorable intensity of solar radiation for the most extended period. It helps take the most out of the efficiency of solar power.
Shading When shadows fall on solar panels, they disrupt energy production, causing losses and disrupting the efficiency of solar panels. However, bypass diodes can help here by providing an alternate path for the electricity to flow when part of the panel is shaded.
Operations and monitoring Keeping an eye on things remotely helps prevent problems and ensures a good return on investment. Regular maintenance is also a must.
Maintenance While solar panels are “tough cookies”, they still need a “good scrub” now and then to make sure they’re producing as much sunlight as possible.

Do Solar Panels Lose Efficiency Over Time?

Yes, and it is a normal thing for PV modules to lose their solar efficiency over time.

Technician team of 3 solar workers repairing solar panels

Just like any well-used machine or a trusty gadget, they can’t keep up their efficiency of solar power forever. They gradually lose it over time, just like your favorite pair of sneakers that have seen too many miles. But why do solar panels degrade over time?

Well, there are a bunch of reasons behind it. Some are tied to how they’re made, while others depend on the weather, how they’re set up, or even how well they’re taken care of.

Over time, solar cells lose their ability to absorb sunlight efficiently, resulting in reduced efficiency. This decline is termed degradation. While most solar panels have a warranty that stretches for 25-30 years, rooftop setups can last even longer if treated correctly. On average, the efficiency of solar energy drops by about half to three percent each year during their entire lifespan. It resembles a marathon runner slowing down as they reach the finish line.

Now, let’s find the roots of the problem and learn about a few degradation types.

3 Types of Solar Panel Degradation

Solar panel degradation type Description
Age degradation As rooftop PV modules weather the storms and soak up the sun, they undergo a natural process of wear and tear, as any other object we use. Thereby, exposure to heavy rain, snow, hail, and scorching temperatures can lead to frame corrosion, silicon hardening, and even tiny cracks on the surface. Over time, it disrupts electrical connections and hampers energy output. And if they’re mishandled or installed improperly, those cracks can get worse. Consequently, the efficiency of solar panels over time drops even faster.
Potential-induced degradation It happens when high voltages start causing trouble. The issue can lead to leaks and reduced electricity flow to the inverter, marked by black cells near the frame. It’s like a power struggle within the panel, and when PID strikes, solar PV efficiency can plummet by 30% or more.
Light-induced degradation This type of solar efficiency degradation occurs when the panels first face the sun. Metaphorically, they’re getting used to their new job, with their efficiency dropping a bit initially. But after that, things stabilize, and they settle into a routine. To combat this, manufacturers throw in UV blockers to shield the cells from the sun’s rays.

Solar panel efficiency over time decreases due to a handful of other factors:

  1. Quality. Regarding the efficiency of solar panels, quality is about avoiding a whole heap of trouble. Undoubtedly, using low-quality parts can lead to all sorts of headaches, from lower efficiency of solar energy and higher maintenance costs to a shorter lifespan. Furthermore, things won’t work smoothly if those parts aren’t put together just right. That’s why it’s smart to stick with a certified, top-notch solar provider.
  2. Installation. The installation of solar panels is crucial. A faulty installation can lead to serious consequences, including microcracks and vulnerability to water damage and corrosion, jeopardizing the entire system’s functionality. Therefore, if the wiring is not connected properly, you may say goodbye to the efficiency of solar panels.
  3. Maintenance. Prevent dust buildup as it acts like a blanket on panels, hindering their effectiveness – it stifles their power output and disrupts the efficiency of solar energy. Let alone industrial emissions or bird droppings. All foreign objects hamper the efficiency of photovoltaic cells. That’s why the installation owner needs to thoroughly clean their panels frequently, checking for any loose or busted bits and keeping everything ship-shaped. It’s the best way to get the most efficiency of solar panels.

How Much Efficiency Do Solar Panels Lose per Year?

Couple of solar technicians replacing solar panels.

Solar panels don’t keep it vigorous forever – they tend to lose a bit of solar cell efficiency over time.

In the first year, they might even degrade faster, around 2-3%, because of that light-induced degradation we discussed earlier. However, then they settle down.

Now, what affects this solar panel degradation? Well, it’s a mix of things, including how good the panels are, the weather in your area, and how well you keep them in shape. Splashing out top-notch panels from a trusted brand can slow down this process and save you money in the long run.

Can You Boost Solar Panels Efficiency Over Time?

Solar panels are specifically designed to handle whatever nature throws their way – snow, hail, wind, etc. Apart from that, they’re less likely to break down or stop working unexpectedly since they don’t have any moving parts in their installation system.

Despite solar panels functioning well but slowly losing their solar efficiency with time, you don’t have to settle for it.

  • Increasing solar panel efficiency is possible. All you need to do is to care for the solar installation routinely and arrange quality maintenance.

Don’t know how to extend the lifespan of your solar panels? Here’s how:

  1. Contact a reliable solar installer who can come around for regular check-ups, akin to giving your panels a health check. These inspections are necessary to ensure they’re in a perfect state and to spot any issues early on.
  2. Keep those panels as clean as glass. A quick rinse with water can wash away any accumulated dirt or grit. Leaving debris or buildup for too long can lead to the formation of tiny cracks, which can gradually erode the surface and diminish solar power efficiency over time.
  3. Are solar panels getting more efficient with debris on? No, so clear away any debris cluttering your panels, whether it’s fallen branches or a blanket of snow. Indeed, debris puts more pressure on solar panels, causing scratches or outright damage.
  4. Remove the snow cover if it’s piling up on your panels. Otherwise, it can freeze and cause serious trouble like microcracks on cells.

Providing your panels with extra care and attention alleviates strain and extends their lifespan. Additionally, keeping up with maintenance might uncover any problems early on. Therefore, you need to get them fixed up quickly to maintain the efficiency of solar panels. Remember, a clean panel is a happy panel as it harnesses more solar energy.

Other Ways Of Increasing Solar Panel Efficiency

Undoubtedly, proper and regular upkeep won’t let the efficiency of solar panels drop. However, there are a couple of alternative ways to enhance solar efficiency.

Minimize Shading

To get the most out of your solar panels, you need to keep them shade-free and in the sun’s spotlight. Even a tiny bit of shading can seriously reduce their energy output.

Make sure your panels have a clear view of the sun by keeping them away from any pesky obstructions like trees, buildings, or other structures that might cast shadows during peak sunlight hours. If you can’t avoid shading, consider trimming nearby trees or adjusting the panel placement so that the efficiency of solar panels never decreases.

Optimize Inverters’ Workflow

Another valuable recommendation is to give your solar panel inverter some TLC. This gizmo takes the direct current (DC) panels produced and converts them into the alternating current (AC) electricity that powers your home or feeds back into the grid.

Picking a top-notch, efficient inverter is key to squeezing every last drop of energy out of your solar setup.

Opt for Advanced Technologies

The efficiency of solar panels greatly depends on technologies. If you’re looking to supercharge your solar game, consider installing some advanced tech like microinverters, power optimizers, or solar trackers. These gadgets fine-tune individual panels’ performance as well as ensure efficiency even in less-than-ideal conditions. Better solar efficiency means more energy for you, especially if your area isn’t exactly known for its sunshine.

Optimize Daily Consumption of Energy

Boosting how efficiently your household uses energy is a biggie when it comes to getting the most out of your solar panels. For instance, when you time those power-consuming tasks (running appliances or juicing up electric rides) during peak sunlight hours, you can directly utilize the solar energy generated by your panels.

Consequently, it cuts down on your grid reliance. Arranging all the activities at the proper time lets you make the most of the solar power you generate yourself. Additionally, consider switching to smart home gadgets when trying to save electricity and boost the efficiency of solar panels. They enable you to monitor your energy consumption and adjust it according to the available solar energy output.

Purchase High Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Cell Panels

Regarding the efficiency of solar panels, this is the simplest way to keep them running well.

The idea behind CPV is to focus the sunlight onto super-efficient solar cells that would normally break the bank. While regular solar panels hit a peak efficiency of around 22%, CPV cells can crank it up to 46%!

However, all that efficiency comes at a cost. The efficiency of solar energy for CPV panels can cost up to four times more than your standard PV panels.

Furthermore, there aren’t as many CPV models as other PV panels. Still, if you can track down a supplier and can afford it, CPV is worth attention.

Utilize Energy Monitoring Software

It’s common for businesses to set up solar panels, see decent initial results, and then forget about them. But here’s the catch – if you’re not keeping an eye on the efficiency of solar energy, you might miss the point when it starts losing steam.

One way to monitor your energy generation is to link your solar setup to energy management software. A few tools let you track solar panel efficiency over time and spot any unexpected dips. Prevention is always better than cure.

Navigating the Complexities: Maximizing Solar Panel Efficiency

While the efficiency of solar panels primarily hinges on the quality of their photovoltaic (PV) cells, a plethora of factors can influence their effectiveness over time. From environmental concerns to technological advancements, the journey towards maximizing solar efficiency is multifaceted.

As with any other appliance, the efficiency of solar panels gradually diminishes over time due to various factors like age degradation, potential-induced degradation, and light-induced degradation. However, regular maintenance and careful consideration of installation and quality remain paramount.

Jed Hilton
Jed Hilton

Jed Hilton, our Founder and CEO, has over a decade of experience in the solar industry. His innovative leadership and expertise in solar technologies guide our company's vision and strategy.