Martin Halloway, a green building designer, had been living without electricity for five years before he purchased his first solar panel in 1980. This exact module, an Arco Solar 16-2000, 33 Watt solar panel, was manufactured in 1979.
In 2010, Halloway decided to bring the solar panel down from his roof after 30 years to test it out. It was an oddly crisp, clear day of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Halloway's solar panel was designed for a 12-Volt battery (Max. Voltage of 16VDC), so he tested the module by connecting it directly to 12-Volt loads.
Halloway's first test was connecting a 35 Watt, 12 Volt incandescent light bulb. The light bulb lit up, passing test number one. Halloway says that his Fluke digital service multimeter showed that with 2.015 amps, the voltage of the module at 14.93 Volts.
Next, Halloway connected the Arco Solar Panel to a 4.5 amp, 12 Volt blower. The blower drew 2.5 amps from the thirty-year-old module, which is higher than you'd imagine based on the module's factory specifications. Remember, this is a 33W panel that was purchased in 1980.
When Halloway called up the manufacturer to share the exciting news, they were surprised but explained how this was probably due to the cool weather during this test. The cooler temperature must have given the panel a 10% increase in performance.
Warranties generally cover a solar module for up to 25 years at 80% nominal output. Over the years, all solar panels will degrade somewhat, but crystalline silicon panels have a much slower rate of degradation than thin film. To be considered effective by most manufacturers, a solar panel has to operate at least 80% of its rated peak output. So even when some older modules may not reach that 80% mark of the rated peak output, they can continue to produce smaller amounts of energy for years after their warranties are up.
This Arco solar panel, however, far outlived its warranty and is certainly working well into its old age.
With the improvements to solar panels since 1979, how long into the future could some of today's solar panels be working?
Image Credits: www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/
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