I see numbers about the lifespan of solar panels in units of years, but that got me wondering: Is the lifespan of a solar panel dependent on actual power generation, or just a finite number from the year of manufacturing?

For example, if the solar panel was said to last 20 years, if I purchased it new but kept it disconnected in a climate controlled pitch black room for 15 years, would I then get only 5 years of power generation from that point on, or would I get the full 20 years of power generation from that point on?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A 1st order cause of degradation is UV damage. I think not too far behind is heating and cooling causing flexure and other elements related to weathering. So if you keep them in the dark, you eliminate those causes. I'd guess they'd keep a long time deep in a missile silo and probably deliver most of their useful life, once usage began. Keep in mind that no two panels are alike and that they fail when they do. The whole system won't go down at one time, nor will they degrade evenly. An old study (about 15 years old, now, I think) was a very large university farm. They lost 8% panels per year. \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Nov 17, 2022 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some solar panels have a plastic cover that gets sunburned or damaged from acid rain in a few months. Some solar panels have a glass cover that does not get damaged and they last "forever" They usually cost the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Audioguru
    Nov 17, 2022 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think all the other weather-related things aside, electromigration would cause a panel to have diminished output over time. More here: mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/12/6882 \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2022 at 0:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @hacktastical Not too likely (if I understand from prior work I've done) if these are kept in the dark as the OP is suggesting. Electromigration as I understand it has to do with currents traveling. (My work was with ICs where the aluminum trace widths and the currents they carried were critical to this problem. We didn't study migration as ICs sat in a dark hole. I admit that. But it was never brought out as something we should have studied. So I don't think it's an issue here if the solar panels are kept dark.) \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Nov 17, 2022 at 1:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ My understanding is if OP is asking if the panel life is proportional to its output. My guess is that the more output, the more electromigration, and the shorter its life. I suppose I'll have to look at that paper in more detail. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2022 at 2:08

2 Answers 2


The 20 years is actually a very rough estimate, that assumes it is used, placed on a sun-facing roof etc. In a theoretical situation that you would put it in a temperature/humidity-controlled black room, and there is no obsolecence of other components, etc., the years of storage should not be counted in the expected lifespan.

But it wouldn't be wise to delay their usage. Do not forget as well that innovation will allow to increase efficiency and/or decrease cost of the panels in 20 years...


You buy a solar panel to use it and manufacturer estimates its lifespan under assumed conditions.

Imagine an old audio amplifier, which lasted 30 years and it still works. Have you ever thought it would run for so long? Probably no.

Semiconductor part of solar panel is probably the most thin element (and the strongest), the rest are glass and aluminium - the shelf as someone mentioned.

Personally I would worry about the glass and aluminium more than for internals. The second thing is the company itself. I doubt all these third-party chinese companies or retailers will exist in 2042 :)

In terms of such a long lifespan you can cover it with your best blanket for 19 years and it is assumed to work for next 20 years or it can get damaged in the last year of your warranty.

I think it's easier to use the solar panel than to keep it and save it for next era :) In terms of many old lasting devices, would you blanket the stone in order to save it?


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