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  • 1.  Do solar panels ever actually, really die?

    ASES Life Member
    Posted 07-21-2022 09:04 AM
    See this link which I came across:  https://hackaday.com/2022/07/19/dead-solar-panels-are-the-hottest-new-recyclables/ 
    My question for photo-voltaic-philes: Are there any efforts to repurpose older panels, i.e., those where the efficiency has dropped below what is needed for the application or system they are attached to? I think of the panels I have on my roof, now 6 years old, with a 25-year warrantee. When I asked how well they'd perform after 25 years the answer was in the range of 80% of what they put out when installed. It seems to me repurposing panels that still kick out over half of what they started with, would make a lot of economic sense.

    As one of my solar cooking guests said, "I'm not a PV guy, I'm a Thermal Guy." That's me, but getting deeper into PV and hope to have an intelligent answer for those who worry about scrapping panels altogether...


    Luther Krueger, Big Blue Sun Museum of Solar Cooking
    Minneapolis MN   44.94N 93.28W  el 270m / 886ft  
    Subscribe to my YouTube solar cooking video series!

  • 2.  RE: Do solar panels ever actually, really die?

    Posted 07-22-2022 09:47 AM
    Hi Luther,

    My doctoral research is on reuse of solar PV systems for social and ecological benefit and I run a nonprofit program called Equitable Solar Solutions(TM) https://www.linkedin.com/company/equitable-solar-solutions/

    The short answer is that, yes some solar PV modules, inverters and rails can be reused but not all of them. There are differences in quality/reliability between manufacturers and even within various models/technologies within a single manufacturer. There are also differences based on the environment where solar arrays have been installed and how they were installed. Screening and characterization of reuse PV equipment is critical to ensure that only the good stuff that will last an additional 20 years gets repurposed onto rooftops. Functional equipment that does not met the highest standards might still be repurposed for a few years in agricultural and other environments where damage of the equipment is best targeted at used equipment than something brand new. 

    Equipment that can't/shouldn't be reused should be send to electronic recycling (inverters) or PV recycling (will likely charge you a fee per panel for true recyclers vs conventional companies that may strip the aluminum frame and copper cables and send the rest to landfills).


    Rich Stromberg
    ESS Program Director
    Equitable Solar Solutions(TM)
    ess@coldharbourinstitute.org / restromberg@alaska.edu

  • 3.  RE: Do solar panels ever actually, really die?

    ASES Life Member
    Posted 07-25-2022 05:10 PM
    Inline image

    Dale N. Bickenbach 
    5232 South Mason Avenue Tacoma, Washington 
    +1 253 475 5242  Worldwide Cell 
    or 2-2223 Sapporo Drive Whistler, British Columbia V8E 0B5 
    SKYPE: dale.n.bickenbach

  • 4.  RE: Do solar panels ever actually, really die?

    ASES Award Winner
    Posted 07-22-2022 10:07 AM
    There are a small percentage of PV panels (modules) that die, mostly due to the fact that the resin
    that seals the glass over the solar material has microscopic holes which allow moisture to penetrate
    inside the PV module itself and shorts-out connections.  This happens less and less frequently as
    our PV manufacturing quality has improved as a global industry.

    I have Solarex polycrystalline modules installed on my house in 1985, and they have lost 11% of their
    output,, so still going strong. - Scott

    Scott Sklar, President, The Stella Group, Ltd.

    Arlington, VA 22201, E-mail:   solarsklar@aol.com

    The Stella Group, Ltd.. is a global strategic technology optimization owner's rep firm for 

    clean energy users and companies, with a focus on system standardization, 

    modularity and web-enabled diagnostics.  Scott Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at 

    The George Washington University teaching three unique interdisciplinary 

    sustainable energy courses,

    Scott Sklar
    President & Adj Professor
    The Stella Group, Ltd, GWU EEMI
    Arlington, VA

  • 5.  RE: Do solar panels ever actually, really die?

    Posted 07-22-2022 01:05 PM
    You can have catastrophic failure of any solar system part, including the panels. Gradual degradation of the pv panel itself in theory may curve out for over a century, eventually ending in point failure. For a person putting up a new array where labor is the big cost, I think the barrier is that a new install wants the biggest bang for their money. Highest power per area. On my house when I get my roof expansion done, I will be adding my old pv array panels (255 watt'ers) on to it. But I already paid for them and all the labor cost is me. Just the racking cost and a new inverter.

    william fitch