Scaling Up: Strategies for Mitigating Impact of Solar Panel Degradation

Strategies for mitigating the impact of solar panel degradation. Key factors leading to degradation, the impact on energy output, return on investment, and other aspects. AI for advanced Asset Performance Management (APM) to proactively address degradation issues. The AI-enhanced approach includes loss identification, prioritization, root cause analysis, work order automation, and data-driven decision-making.
19 minutes

Scaling Up: Strategies for Mitigating Impact of Solar Panel Degradation

For solar asset owners, the conversation is not just limited to more panels soaking up the sun, but also about optimizing every bit for the long haul. However, the effectiveness and longevity of solar panels are influenced by various factors, including the inevitable process of degradation. Therefore you should be aware of the AI solutions for mitigating solar panel degradation and learn the strategies to mitigate solar panel degradation.

What is Solar Panel Degradation?

Solar panel degradation refers to the gradual decrease in the efficiency and performance of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels over time. It is a natural and expected process that occurs as a result of various environmental, operational, and material factors. 

Solar panels are designed to convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect, but over the years, their ability to generate power may diminish. This degradation, if left unchecked, can impact the overall performance and energy output of solar installations. 

Based on research conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average degradation rate for solar panels stands at 0.50%. In practical terms, this implies that even after 25 years of operation, you can anticipate your solar output to be approximately 89% of its initial capacity.

So you need to be aware and start knowing the strategies for mitigating solar panel degradation.

 

What Are the Key Factors Leading to Solar Panel Degradation?

Several factors contribute to the degradation of solar panels over time. Understanding these key factors is essential for addressing and mitigating potential issues. Here are the primary factors leading to solar panel degradation:

Exposure to UV Radiation

Solar panels are continuously exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Over time, prolonged exposure can lead to the breakdown of materials, affecting the efficiency of solar cells.

Temperature Variations

Fluctuations in temperature, especially exposure to high temperatures, can contribute to thermal stress on solar panels. This stress may lead to the expansion and contraction of materials, causing microcracks and reducing overall efficiency.

Humidity and Moisture

Moisture infiltration over an extended period can cause corrosion and delamination of solar cell components. This degradation is particularly relevant in regions with high humidity levels or where the solar panels are exposed to frequent rain.

Mechanical Stress

Mechanical stress, such as hail impacts, heavy snow loads, or wind-induced vibrations, can result in physical damage to solar panels. Cracks or breakages in the photovoltaic cells can lead to reduced efficiency.

Dust and Dirt Accumulation

The accumulation of dust, dirt, and other particles on the surface of solar panels can obstruct sunlight absorption. This reduces the amount of light reaching the photovoltaic cells, impacting energy conversion efficiency.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to harsh chemicals or pollutants, such as industrial emissions or bird droppings, can lead to chemical reactions that compromise the integrity of solar panel materials.

Potential Induced Degradation (PID) of Solar Panel

Potential-induced degradation occurs when voltage potential between the solar cells and the ground leads to a flow of current, causing degradation. PID is a common issue in certain environmental conditions and can be addressed through appropriate system design and mitigation measures.

Spectral Mismatch

Spectral mismatch refers to variations in the sunlight spectrum compared to the ideal spectrum for which solar cells are designed. Changes in sunlight conditions can lead to reduced efficiency as cells may not perform optimally across all wavelengths.

Manufacturing Defects

In some cases, defects in manufacturing, such as poor soldering, suboptimal encapsulation, or inconsistent material quality, can contribute to premature degradation of solar panels.

Light-Induced Degradation (LID)

LID occurs during the initial exposure of solar cells to sunlight and can result in an immediate decrease in efficiency. However, modern solar cell technologies, such as anti-LID coatings, aim to minimize this effect.

 

What is the Impact of Solar Panel Degradation?

The impact of solar panel degradation can be significant and may affect various aspects, ultimately influencing the bottom line of solar energy projects and investments. Here are key considerations regarding the impact of solar panel degradation:

Reduced Energy Output

As solar panels degrade, their ability to convert sunlight into electricity diminishes. This reduction in efficiency leads to a decrease in the overall energy output of the solar installation. Lower energy production can impact the project’s ability to meet performance expectations and generate the anticipated revenue.

Decreased Return on Investment (ROI)

Solar energy projects are often assessed based on their return on investment. If solar panels degrade more rapidly than expected, the project’s ROI may be lower than initially projected. This can affect the financial viability of the project and impact the profitability of the investment.

Increased Operating Costs

Solar panel degradation may necessitate more frequent maintenance and repairs. Increased operating costs associated with addressing degradation-related issues, such as the replacement of faulty panels or cleaning to mitigate efficiency losses, can impact the overall project budget.

Shortened System Lifespan

The degradation of solar panels can contribute to a shortened lifespan of the entire solar energy system. Premature equipment failure or the need for early replacements can result in additional capital expenditures, affecting the long-term financial performance of the project.

Contractual and Performance Guarantees

Many solar panel manufacturers and installers provide warranties and performance guarantees. If degradation exceeds the specified limits outlined in these agreements, it may trigger warranty claims and additional costs for replacement or repair. Meeting performance guarantees is crucial for maintaining investor confidence.

Impact on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Solar projects often rely on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) that define the terms of energy sales. Degradation-induced decreases in energy output may lead to non-compliance with agreed-upon energy production levels, potentially resulting in penalties or renegotiations that can impact revenue streams.

 

How to Use AI to Mitigate the Impact of Solar Panel Degradation?

Advanced Asset Performance Management (APM) powered by cutting-edge technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), advanced data analytics, and efficient automation, offers a holistic and proactive approach to mitigate the impacts of solar panel degradation. 

AI-Enhanced Loss Identification

Leveraging AI and ML algorithms, APM goes beyond traditional loss identification methods. These technologies can analyze intricate patterns in performance data to pinpoint subtle inefficiencies and potential degradation sources. The enhanced accuracy in identifying losses ensures a meticulous approach to preventative maintenance, addressing even the most nuanced issues affecting solar panel efficiency.

Loss Bucketing and Prioritization

Advanced solar asset performance management solutions incorporate smart loss bucketing to categorize the identified losses based on root causes, severity, and impact. By prioritizing preventative maintenance efforts, asset managers or operations and maintenance service providers can strategically allocate resources, ensuring that the most critical issues are addressed promptly. This approach minimizes the overall impact of degradation on energy production and project profitability.

Root Cause Analysis

The integration of root cause analysis powered by AI allows for a deeper understanding of factors contributing to solar panel degradation. Identifying the root causes of inefficiencies enables maintenance teams to implement targeted preventative solutions, addressing underlying issues rather than merely mitigating symptoms. This approach fosters sustained performance improvements over the long term.

Work Order Automation and CMMS

APM, complemented by work order automation and Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), streamlines the preventative maintenance workflow. Automated creation and management of work orders facilitate efficient interventions, ensuring that potential issues are addressed in a timely manner. CMMS further enhances asset management by providing a centralized platform for scheduling, tracking, and documenting maintenance activities.

Intelligent Work Order Prioritization

Work order automation, coupled with intelligent prioritization, based on the criticality of identified issues, optimizes preventative maintenance. This ensures that maintenance teams focus on addressing the most impactful problems first, improving resource utilization, and minimizing downtime.

Enhanced Data-Driven Decision-Making

Advanced data analytics and AI contribute to enhanced data-driven decision-making by providing deeper insights into performance trends, efficiency improvements, and the overall health of the solar energy system. Stakeholders can make informed decisions aligned with long-term sustainability goals, ensuring a proactive and strategic approach to preventative maintenance.

 

How Can Prescinto Help You?

Prescinto emerges as a pivotal solution for mitigating solar panel degradation and enhancing the overall lifespan of panels, thereby contributing to improved bottom lines for solar plants. With custom reports and dashboards for tracking tailored KPIs and metrics, users gain real-time insights into the performance of solar assets. Prescinto’s AI-Powered Recommendation Engine, Tahoe, plays a crucial role by classifying losses into 14 types, providing a granular understanding of inefficiencies and enabling a targeted preventative maintenance approach. Through visualizing data trends with comprehensive charting tools, stakeholders can conduct in-depth analyses, identifying degradation patterns and optimizing performance.

Prescinto goes beyond traditional monitoring with its AI-powered actionable recommendations, which empower users to make informed decisions to proactively address panel degradation factors. Custom alerts, configured with specific thresholds and escalations, facilitate timely interventions, minimizing the impact of degradation on energy production. By automating work orders based on these alerts, Prescinto ensures that maintenance teams swiftly address identified issues, contributing to the extended lifespan of solar panels.

Ultimately, this comprehensive approach not only safeguards against degradation-related losses but also enhances operational efficiency, reducing costs and maximizing the bottom line for solar plants.

 

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