Is Solar Energy Reliable?
Recent years have seen huge hikes in gas and electricity bill prices, as well as a growing shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. It’s no wonder, then, that many people are now considering installing solar panels as an alternative energy source for their homes.
When looking at the options, most prospective customers raise concerns over the reliability and efficiency of solar panels.
So are they worth investing in? First things first…
What is a solar panel?
Many people think that if you have a solar panel installation in your home then you won’t have to be connected to the electric grid. Firstly, we need to dispel that myth, as it’s simply not true.
You may, however, be compensated for any electricity that your solar system produces but doesn’t use. Thanks to net metering, the surplus amount of power generated will be credited on your electricity bill, on a kilowatt-hour basis.
Another commonly believed myth is that you have to live in a sunny climate for solar panels to function at all. Again, this is simply not true.
While it’s true that solar panels only produce electricity when they come into contact with sunlight, they are also capable of storing energy through connection to the grid. The point of these reserves is to ensure that your panels keep supplying electricity to your home even at night or in poor weather conditions.
How do solar panels produce energy?
Well, solar generated electricity is obviously produced by the light of the sun.
To convert that energy into electricity we use solar panels which are comprised of photovoltaic (PV) cells made of silicon.
When these cells come into contact with sunlight the electrons within them start flowing. Electricity is, in essence, flowing electrons.
The electricity flows to a solar inverter, converting DC to AC electricity which is suitable for powering home appliances and domestic purposes.
Most solar panels have an efficiency of 15-18 percent (based on rate of light converted to electricity). High efficiency panels use higher quality PV cells, and require a smaller surface to produce a higher output of energy.
Solar panels work in tandem with other components, including inverters, distribution panels, electric meters and racking. You’ll normally find them installed on the roof of a home or building, in a place that is most exposed to daylight. The racking facilitates the mounting of the panels on the rooftop or desired location.
The inverters convert the DC electricity into AC electricity, while optional batteries provide extra storage to help with the energy reserves and to provide a contingency power source.
Do Solar Panels Fail?
Despite what the detractors say about the reliability of solar panels, in recent years they have been proven to be an extremely reliable source of energy production.
In 2017 a study was carried out by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). They tested 54,500 solar power systems installed in the USA between 2005 and 2015.
They wanted to measure the durability of solar panels and the degradation of energy generation. They found that the failure rate was 0.05 percent – that’s a mere 5 panels out of 10,000, or 1 in every 2,000. Even in spite of some of the panels being around a decade old, they were still functioning very well.
If we take into consideration how far technological advances have come along since 2015, we can deduce that the lifespan of solar panels will have improved even further since the study’s results were published.
In the unlikely event that solar panels fail, there are usually some unique contributing factors.
Why do Solar Panels Fail?
Solar panel failure is more often than not provoked by extreme weather conditions or by poor maintenance.
Be careful when carrying out any maintenance on your solar panels. Your warranty should cover most eventualities, but if you damage the panels in the process of cleaning them, for example, then their lifespan will degrade.
Extreme weather conditions can also have an impact on the degradation of solar panels. Although designed to withstand inclement weather, every now and then and depending on the season, solar panels may fail due to extreme or constant exposure to humidity or heat.
Getting the Most Out of Your Solar Panels
In order to ensure lasting benefits from your solar panels, there are certain steps you can take. Getting the panels installed by a professional solar installer is the first logical step to a healthy panel life.
Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your solar panels:
- Ensure the panels are facing south, or as near to it as possible. Doing so will typically produce up to 30 percent more energy.
- Think about the positioning of the panels. Having a flat or low-sloping roof can decrease solar panel efficiency. Take care to place your solar panels in direct sunlight, and that the light is not obscured by trees or branches that may fall on the panels.
- Go for higher efficiency solar panels. Go for the upgrade – for the amount of energy produced it will be worth it in the long run!
- Mount solar systems on the ground. By doing so you make sure that the solar energy production isn’t dependent on the characteristics of your roof.
If your panels become exposed to extreme weather like snow or harsh storms (who could forget Storm Eunice?), or even just falling debris, take great care to remove anything that may be lodged on the panels.
Proceed with caution when removing debris – use lukewarm water gently sprayed on the panels. Avoid power tools like power washers as they can potentially damage the panels and risk voiding your warranty.
It’s worth investing in high quality materials. Low-quality solar panels are obviously going to have a lower tolerance for the wear and tear of daily life.
If you take care of your panels well, then depending on your warranty, you can expect them to keep performing for up to 25 years or even 30 years!
Save with Solar
Going solar is undeniably a stable investment.
Once you have a solar system installed, you will see payback in the long run.
What’s more, the sense of freedom to make your own financial choices by becoming more independent from utility companies is, quite frankly, priceless.
The recent government energy price cap enforced by every utility company, and the politics of the Russia-Ukraine war, means that now is a good time to start shopping around for alternatives that won’t burn a hole in your pocket long term.
You too could transform your monthly expenses through investing in solar power. Find out more about how to start your solar savings journey today.