people on roof with solar panels

Study Shows Effects of Weather Events on Solar Panels

National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that inclement weather degrade solar panels   February 12, 2024

By Dave Lubach, Executive Editor



 As solar energy continues to be relied upon more and more in institutional and commercial facilities, looks at how the technology performs and holds up over the years are emerging. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently completed a four-year study into how the photovoltaic (PV) systems perform over time. One of the bigger takeaways from the study was how the solar panels degrade over time due to exposure to elements.  

The study found that extreme weather events such as flooding, high winds, hail, wildfire and lightning will impact the systems over time, finding a 1 percent median loss of energy per year. Most of the solar outages that took place resulted from flooding and rain and wind events, but those kinds of weather events can also create other issues like cracked skills and increase the degradation rate. 

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While 1 percent may not seem like a big loss of quality, managers should consider that loss over a lifetime of 20-50 years when planning installations and maintenance on the systems. 

“This median loss in performance is a crucial number,” says Chris Deline, one of the authors of the study. “First, it shows that our fleet of PV systems, on the whole, is not failing catastrophically, but rather degrading at a modest rate within expectations. It’s important that we quantify this rate as accurately as we can, because this small but tangible number is used in almost all financing agreements that fund solar projects and provides critical guidance for the industry.” 

Dave Lubach is executive editor for the facilities market.  



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