SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) claims in a new report that solar power systems have a usable lifetime of at least 35 years, which is 40% more than what the market expects. Power degradation or the annual efficiency loss of the solar panels supplied to SolarCity is 35% less than that of a similar comparable industry-wide selection of non-SolarCity panels (with an expected life of 25 years), claims the solar panel installer.
SolarCity and degradation
SolarCity credits this success to the stringent implementation and industry-leading “Total Quality Program.” The solar firm is poised well to become one of the biggest deployers of solar panels globally. Using their tens of thousands of systems connected to a central database, they are also able to ascertain real-time performance.
For the study, the company considered over 11,000 panels to conclude that the performance of its solar panels is above expected industry standards. The study focused mainly on “degradation.” Every year due to several reasons such as daily increase/decrease of temperatures, water vapor inside the panels, and sunlight slowly breaking down materials, solar panels are expected to forego some portion of electricity production capability.
Solar firm consistently improving quality
Solar panel manufacturers have been working on their hardware quality to ensure their solar panels prove worthy for customers. Currently, for the first 25 years, standard-efficiency solar panels from Tier 1 suppliers are warrantied to lose no more than 0.7% efficiency per year. This is referred to as the Power Production Warranty. In 1997, SolarWorld was the first to offer such a warranty, and since then, it has become the industry norm.
However, SolarCity’s report claims the 0.7% efficiency loss per year is too high and that the number should be closer to 0.5%. Though a difference of 0.2% hardly appears threatening, when seen over multiple decades, it means the standard 25-year assumed productive life can be expected to increase by another ten years of production over 80% of the original system output.
For years, SunPower has been warrantying its panels at 0.5%. However, a recent study claims that SunPower’s panels, degrade at a much lower rate of 0.25% annually. At this rate, SunPower panels have more than 50 years before they hit the 80% figure.
What’s interesting is that the “economically priced” products from the biggest producers are raising the quality and longevity of solar panels. With SolarCity constructing its own solar panel Gigafactory, we could expect the quality level to go even higher in the near future.
At 11:40 a.m. Eastern, SolarCity shares were down 0.54% at $23.63. Year to date, the stock is down almost 54%, while in the last year, it is down almost 55%.