Solar panels installed in France in 1992 retain 79% of their original output, 31 years later

A long-running solar panel test in France was installed in 1992, with a small 1-kilowatt solar array called Phebus 1, operating since 1992.

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The usual lifespan of solar panels is estimated to be between 20 and 40 years, with efficiency and power generation degrading over time. However, installation in France from 1992 is still pumping away with 79% of their output.

Solar panels installed in France in 1992 retain 79% of their original output, 31 years later 121

Technicians dismantled the vintage 10-square-meter 1-kilowatt solar array last year, running the solar panels through rigorous lab testing per international standards and finding impressive results. Even after 31 years of service, an average of 79.5% of the initial rated power output is achieved.

Solar panel manufacturers usually guarantee around 80% of their original performance for up to 25 years, but the "Phébus 1" solar system has been running for 31 years and counting, with an average annual decline of just 0.66%. The solar system celebrated its 20th anniversary of installation back in 2012, with the panels pumping 91.7% of their rated output, but with the years clicking away the drop-off in efficiency has increased on particular modules.

After 31 years, the solar modules have produced 20,366 kWh for 882 Wp, or 745 kWh/kWp/year, not bad at all.

The 1-kilowatt solar system is connected to the French grid company Hespul, which says that "these results confirm those of various scientific studies that are references on the subject."

Hespul says a long-term study by the Swiss and recent American and European research shows median solar panel degradation rates from 0.36 to 0.75% annually. These declines in output will happen, but the massive real-world data shows solar installations can keep providing energy for decades... while keeping highly viable performance levels.

Another thing to consider is that these are extremely old solar panels... and technology has improved by leaps and bounds by then, so it'll be interesting to see how solar systems of today hold up in 10, 20, and 30 years from now.

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Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering and has recently taken a keen interest in artificial intelligence (AI) hardware.

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