Between 2010 and 2020, the cost of solar panels dropped about 85%.
“When you have a product that becomes cheaper, the question is, OK, now this is cheaper, is it as durable as it used to be?” says Marios Theristis, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories.
Since 2016, his team has been testing the performance and durability of more than 800 solar panels, including 13 different module types, from seven manufacturers.
They’re testing them in New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida, to see how they function in a range of climate conditions. They monitor the panels’ power output and assess how the modules are holding up physically — for example, if they develop cracks.
The research reveals significant differences among the panels. But on average, after five years of use, they performed as well as older, pricier modules.
“So far in this study, we found that despite the sharp reduction in costs, we have not seen any influence on the durability of solar panels, which is a very encouraging result,” Theristis says.
His team will continue to monitor the panels. But he says the results so far suggest that consumers can feel confident that solar panels have gone down in price, but not in quality.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media