Technology 3 min read

Short-Lived Solar Modules can be Economically Viable Today

A new study conducted by MIT researchers countered popular belief that it requires 25 years for solar modules to be economically viable.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The collective knowledge in the solar field is that new solar modules must last at least 25 years to make economic sense. Not only has this belief delayed the development of new solar photovoltaic technologies, but it’s also a contributing factor to the high cost of solar panels.

Well, it turns out the popular belief does not hold anymore.

According to a recent MIT paper published in the journal Joule, short-lived panels can be economically viable too. Whether it’s 15 years or ten years lifetime, short-lived solar modules are sufficiently durable for widespread use, says the researchers.

In a statement, former MIT postdoc and CEO of a startup company, Swift Solar, Joel Jean said:

“When you talk to people in the solar field, they say any new solar panel has to last 25 years. If someone comes up with new technology with a 10-year lifetime, no one is going to look at it. That’s considered common knowledge in the field, and it’s kind of crippling.”

According to the researcher, it’s impossible to prove a 25-year lifetime in a year or two. As a result, many promising technologies have remained on the sideline, leaving conventional crystalline silicone tech to dominate the market.

But, the MIT researchers pointed out that it doesn’t need to be the case.

Why Solar Modules With Shorter Lifetime Makes Economic Sense Today

Most of the technology is in the panel, while the cost is in the system, says Jean.

So, instead of replacing the whole solar technology every 30 years, you could simply replace the panel in 10 years and leave the system intact. That way, you can replace older panels with more efficient, lower-cost ones.

For their analysis, the researchers considered three types of solar installations:

  • A typical 6-kilowatt residential system
  • A 200-kilowatt commercial system
  • A large 100-megawatt utility-scale system with solar tracking

Using NREL benchmark parameters for U.S. solar systems, including a variety of assumptions, the researchers evaluated the economic viability of the installations. They also used four independent tools for calculating the leveled cost of electricity to validate the model.

In all three installations, the researchers noted that replacement with new modules could provide an economic advantage. What’s more, it conveyed the economic viability without compromising the environmental and emissions-reduction benefits of solar power.

After analyzing the findings, Jean noted:

“With some caveats about financing, you can, in theory, get to a competitive cost, because your new panels are getting better, with a lifetime as short as 15 or even ten years.”

So, what does this all mean?

According to the researchers, using solar panels with 10 to 15 years lifetime could help us launch new ideas of panels that we would otherwise not have explored.

Also, investors should know that they stand a chance of making more profit when they opt for short-lived solar modules. Periodic replacement of such panels would lead to more efficient ones and more financial gain.

Read More: Solar Power Windows Provide Free Electricity to Future Smart Homes

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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