At the end of their 30-40 year useful service life, solar modules will inevitably need to be recycled. Thankfully, solar modules are highly recyclable! A typical silicon-based solar module is comprised of glass (76%), plastic (10%), aluminum (8%), silicon (5%), and other metals (1%). Of these materials, up to 96% can be reused to make new solar modules. This includes 95% of the glass, 100% of the aluminum, and 85% of the silicon.
On top of all this- because you already have all the infrastructure in place (wiring, racking, and electrical capabilities) a new system can be installed at a fraction of the cost of similar sized systems built from scratch.
Yes! RMSC currently provides solar module recycling services through one of our strategic partners. Please contact us directly if you have any modules that need recycling.
We understand hail damage is a common concern for potential solar energy system owners. There is no denying that solar panels can be damaged by hail, particularly during some of Alberta’s worst storms. This concern is not overlooked by solar manufacturers, however. Utilizing a tempered glass layer, solar panels come with a minimum impact rating of 1” hail at 80km/hr. To see this in action, take a look at this video showing a 2.5” ice ball striking a panel at over 120 km/hr (link). Thankfully there are insurance options to protect ourselves against potential risks such as hail.
A legitimate concern when considering the purchase of ANY technology is that a new, better version is right around the corner. The best example is computerized technologies like mobile phones or laptops. Within only a couple years, these items become obsolete as new and improved versions are released to meet the demands of ever-increasing software and media complexity.
Does the same hold true for solar panels?
Let’s start with the similarities. Similar to other technologies, new and improved solar products are being released each year. Instead of processing power, new solar panels have incremental improvements to their efficiency of converting sunlight into electricity. For example, let’s look at the most commonly sold solar panel technology today: mono-crystalline silicon. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the maximum efficiency of this technology has increased from 14% in 1977, to 26% in 2018 (link). That’s an average of roughly 0.3% per year.
As discussed above, some technologies are so rapidly eclipsed by advancement that they are rendered useless well before the end of their useful life. This is because not only is the technology advancing, but the requirements of that technology are advancing too (i.e. software). In stark contrast, what we want from solar panels (electricity) is not changing. The amount we need and what we use it for may change, but a kWh is identical no matter what produced it. There is zero difference between a kWh of energy from a 30-year-old solar panel, and a brand new one. As long as electricity is useful, and the sun keeps shining, a solar panel will never become obsolete.
Think of solar panels more like a chair than a phone. A chair has one basic function: for you to sit on it. There are advancements in chair technology each year, but our requirement of them stays the same. Even an ancient chair still performs its intended function. The same can be said for solar panels.
Ensuring your solar energy system is not strictly required, but is a good idea. Although events requiring claims for damaged solar panels are extremely rare, they can happen. Many insurance companies in Canada offer straightforward and low rates to insure your solar energy system. It’s simply a matter of adding the value of the installed hardware to the value of your home or business property. This is because insurance policies deem anything that constitutes a ‘permanent fixture’ as insurable. As an example, we recently installed a system in Calgary with equipment valued at $71,000; our customers added it to their insurance policy and their premium has increased by approximately $100/year. Most residential systems can be insured for $2-3 per month.
Solar is not perfect, and we understand that greenhouse gasses are produced during the manufacturing and transportation of solar equipment. However, when compared against other forms of electricity generation (coal, natural gas) solar is vastly superior.
Let's compare CO2 emissions per kWh produced of these 3 electricity generators:
1. Solar = 50g CO2/kWh
2. Natural Gas = 500g CO2/kWh
3. Coal = 1,000g CO2/kWh
As you can see, solar is 10 times more efficient than natural gas, and 20 times more efficient than coal. A solar module will pay back the GHG's created during it's production & transportation in about 2 years of service.
Solar modules are comprised of 5 simple ingredients:
1. Aluminum for the frame
2. Tempered glass for the face
3. Silver (or other highly conductive metal) for the contacts that carry current
4. Mylar for the backer sheet
5. Crystalline silicon which forms the wafer
Crystallin silicon is a polycrystalline structure that has the atomic structure of a single crystal. Silicon wafers are sliced individually using a circular saw, the inner diameter of which cuts into the rod. The now finished solar cells are encapsulated. This means that they are sealed into silicon rubber or ethylene vinyl acetate.
Solar energy systems operate more like a lightbulb than an engine; there are no moving parts to fatigue and no filters or oil to change. Components eventually wear out, and in rare cases have a defect, but no regular upkeep or maintenance is required for these systems to work as intended. This means that home/business owners do not require any special training or in-house expertise to operate their solar energy system safely and efficiently. In some cases, occasional removal of tree or other debris is required, however snow removal is not (see below). If a component is defective, it is easily detected, and you can count on Rocky Mountain Solar Co. to handle your warranty replacement.
Depending on the geographic location and tilt angle of your solar panels, they may become covered in snow for extended periods of time during the winter. Although sunlight will penetrate a thin layer of snow, anything more than a couple inches will prevent most potential energy production. This is not cause for concern, however, as demonstrated by a famous study at the Northern Alberta Institute for Technology (NAIT). This study placed two sets solar panels on the roof of their Edmonton campus at various tilt angles. One set of panels were constantly maintained with snow removal, while the second was left untouched. After gathering 5 years of data, the study concluded that annual energy loss due to snow was between 3-5% (link).
But how could this be? Some of the panels were covered in snow for multiple weeks or even months!
The answer lies with how and when solar panels produce energy. Firstly, the power from the sun is most intense when it hits at a perpendicular (90 degree) angle. Solar panels, therefore, will produce the most power when sunlight is aimed directly at them. Secondly, the duration of sun exposure will dictate the amount of energy received. The outcome of these two factors means the energy produced by solar panels is maximized when days are long, and the sun is in a high position in the sky (summer). Alternatively, energy production is minimized when days are short, and the sun is in a low position (winter). Thankfully, this period of minimum energy production is also when snowfall occurs. The result, confirmed by the NAIT data, is that snow coverage affects the already low periods of energy production. In other words, snow coverage takes a big bite out of the smallest slice of the energy pie.
(Note: While minimal, snow losses ARE explicitly incorporated in our analysis and design at Rocky Mountain Solar Co.)
Solar panels come with two different warranties: product warranty and power production warranty. The product warranty on solar modules ranges from 10-15 years and covers the integrity of the panel and its construction. This protects you against manufacturing defects, environmental issues, and premature wear and tear. Additionally, modules come with a 25–30 year power production warranty. This protects you against faster than expected degradation of the panel’s energy output. Although warranties vary, typical power production warranties state that the power output by year 25 shall be no less than 80% of it's rated value. This is applied linearly, promising no greater than 0.8% loss per year.
Sophisticated monitoring software makes spotting defects or issues very easy. If you encounter a component failure, you simply contact Rocky Mountain Solar Co, and we will complete the warranty replacement at no charge. Even if your warranty has expired, we will continue to support you.