New Study: Climate Change Impact on Solar Panels

Study reveals impacts of climate change on lifespan of PV modules

A recent study conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) sheds light on the significant impact of climate change on the durability and effectiveness of photovoltaic (PV) modules. As the adoption of solar technology surges nationwide, propelled by the aim to make it a leading source of renewable energy globally by 2026, researchers warn of the heightened vulnerability of PV modules to harsh weather conditions intensified by climate change.

The study reveals that rising temperatures, attributed to climate shifts, pose a substantial risk to the longevity and performance of solar panels exposed to prolonged outdoor conditions, particularly in hotter regions across Australia. Incorporating new modelling techniques, UNSW researchers stress the importance of adapting PV module designs to meet the evolving climate challenges.

Their findings, featured in the journal Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, indicate a projected increase in a power loss of up to 12%, potentially leading to a 10 per cent surge in energy prices by 2059. Despite a 20% average rise in technology costs, wind and solar energy maintain their status as the most economical energy sources in Australia, according to the CSIRO’s GenCost 2022–23 report.

Shukla Poddar, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the UNSW School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering and lead author of the study underscores the necessity of understanding regional weather patterns in assessing the degradation rates of PV modules.

Poddar explains, “While commercial PV modules typically offer a lifespan of 20 to 25 years, it’s crucial to recognise how local climates impact their degradation rates. Our research pioneers statistical modelling to estimate the weighted average degradation rate nationwide for various degradation modes.”

This study not only highlights the urgency of addressing climate-induced challenges in solar technology but also emphasises the importance of strategic design and maintenance practices to optimise the lifespan and cost efficiency of PV modules in the face of evolving environmental conditions.

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