Installing a solar system is an investment that could last up to and beyond 25 years – provided the proper care is taken. Warranties vary depending on the manufacturer, system and installer, but Clean Energy Council Approved solar retailers will provide a five-year warranty at a minimum. Going above and beyond, equipment warranties of 10 years on inverters and 25 years for panels are now commonplace.
Solar panels typically require maintenance every six months to remove the dust, leaves and bird poo that can diminish their efficiency. Many homeowners choose to do this themselves, however, this is not viable for commercial property owners. Having a licenced electrician carry out the task can allow for a system inspection to investigate other potential issues, while reducing the risks of working at heights for a business or property owner.
System faults or decreased efficiency may seem trivial until you look at the costs. A 5kW system taken offline for two months would cost around $1,000 to purchase the energy from the grid, instead of generating it for free.
Case studies on solar maintenance
Maintaining a solar system requires minimal outlay, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
IET worked with North Metropolitan TAFE to install a monitoring system for their campus solar arrays. Through monitoring over two months, we identified the system was operating at 50% efficiency and in need of system repairs. The resulting work and re-engineering ensured the system was returned from 50% to full production.
On a larger scale, Google conducted a study at their Californian solar farm and found that cleaning solar panels doubled the farm’s electricity output.
The old saying, a stitch in time saves nine, fits here as well. By identifying simple issues such as water leakage into a single panel and removing the fault from the array you can ensure the faulty part is not effecting the overall production capabilities of the system.
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels generally require very little maintenance. They are durable enough to withstand hail and should last around 25-30 years. The longevity is due in part to the fact that they have no moving parts. However, the failure of just one component in a solar system can significantly affect energy production.
Simply cleaning panels twice a year can increase production by 20-30%.
Typically, a solar panel warranty will be based around a percentage efficiency. The warranty should guarantee that the solar panel output doesn’t fall below a certain level during this time. For the first ten years, that may be 90% efficiency; after which the warranty may state panels are guaranteed to run at 85% or lower.
Your solar inverter (the part that inverts the DC into the AC that your appliances and the grid use) will typically have a shorter manufacturer’s warranty. The core of the system is pretty robust; however, like any electrical device, they can be subject to failure.
What can I expect from IET solar maintenance?
Solar maintenance means so much more than ‘cleaning the panels.’ Regular maintenance of your solar generation system will ensure the system is operating as it should both on the roof and at the invertor, is secure and free of defects.
Solar maintenance includes:
- Monitoring efficiency and adjustments
- Cleaning the panels
- Electrical checks to ensure all components are operating as intended
- Ensuring no parts or wires have become detached, deteriorated or corroded
- Looking for evidence of water accumulation or loss of integrity of seals
- Accessing the inverter panel for faults
- Checking that access to all equipment and isolators is possible
- Battery checks and maintenance where required
- Ensuring the emergency procedures for shutdown and isolation are clearly displayed
Solar maintenance is essential and allows you to maximise the potential of your investment. If you or your business is committed to reducing emissions, opting for regular maintenance helps achieve that aim by reducing the need to produce and install new entire parts more frequently.
What causes solar panels to decrease in efficiency?
As solar panels technology continues to evolve, cells last longer and longer. But it does seem strange that something with no moving parts could still suffer wear and tear. The causes of efficiency loss continue to be investigated and mitigated by manufacturers; however, it is known that with some older panel types sodium enrichment occurs, causing a tiny amount of energy leakage between the cells. Another cause is ambient humidity which leads to moisture build up on the glass.
All cells have the potential for light-induced degradation (LID) just from being in the sun, but LID can be more pronounced if there are defects in manufacturing. Keep the paperwork from your installation safe, as faults such as these should be covered under warranty.
Panels typically come with a workmanship warranty that protects consumers against defective panel parts, generally for the first five years of operation. In Australia, repairs (if identified within the warrantied timeframe) can be rectified at no cost.
Why do you need a Solar Maintenance program?
The Australian standard for solar AS/NZS 5033 outlines the minimum maintenance standards that should be carried out to maintain a safe and efficient system. Undertaking regular maintenance will ensure your solar panel system is operating safely, correctly and efficiently.
Just like having your car serviced by a mechanic, regular servicing and monitoring can detect part failures that would otherwise go unnoticed until they become critical. A maintenance program will extend the lifetime of your system and ensure optimal production.
Why does solar maintenance matter for safety?
Unlike typical electrical products, turning a solar panel system ‘off’ at the switch does not mean that the components no longer pose an electrical hazard. The panels may still be generating a charge each day. Some maintenance tasks may need to be conducted on the roof, which poses additional risks for personnel, who may not be covered by business insurances to carry out such tasks.
Perth being a coastal city means that we also get the occasional storm with winds reaching above 100kmh. Ensuring that panels are securely affixed matters for reducing the risk of damage to a property or people from flying debris in winter.
We believe solar power generation is an efficient and cost-effective solution and key to our energy security. It’s especially true in Perth, which has fewer days of rainfall than any capital city in Australia. Add to this our low levels of air pollution and temperate climate, and it makes sense that we should be leading the way with renewable energy systems.
Find out more about solar system installation and solar system maintenance by getting in touch with IET.