The 8 Problems with Solar Panels & Troubleshooting Tips

Problems with Solar Panels

The shift toward renewable sources of energy in recent times is outstanding. Solar energy, in particular, is being significantly harnessed for commercial and residential purposes today. The primary way of harnessing this energy is by means of a solar panel with photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The interesting thing about solar panels is that they are durable and require little maintenance. Notwithstanding, it is possible for you to encounter some occasional problems with solar panels. Let's discuss some of the common problems you may encounter with solar panels and some troubleshooting tips.

The 8 Common Problems With Solar Panels

1. Internal Corrosion & Delamination

Internal Corrosion & Delamination

While solar panels are typically durable and resistant to weather elements, constant exposure to water may eventually lead to internal corrosion. Solar panels are designed to be airtight and watertight by laminating the panel components under vacuum.

A proper lamination will sufficiently keep the panel protected for a long time. However, delamination is quite common, and this allows moisture/bubbles to penetrate, eventually causing corrosion on the panel.

Typically, this problem starts at the edges of solar panels before spreading to other parts of the panel. Corrosion of the solar panel will lead to a significant reduction in the level of energy converted. If you ever suspect a reduction in your solar panel's power output, it may be a result of internal corrosion.

2. Micro-cracks

Micro-cracks in solar panels

These are quite common in crystalline PV solar panels. The main issue with micro-cracks is that they are hard to notice with the naked eye. However, the cracks tend to grow with time and weather changes. They can occur as a result of careless handling during shipping, or even during the production of the solar panels. With micro-cracks, you will not immediately notice a reduction in the production value of the panel. Still, as the cracks grow with time, a significant reduction in the panel's energy production will be noticed.

The cells in solar panels are wired in series, and these micro-cracks cause damage at the contact points, so they will inevitably have a negative impact on the overall output of the solar panel. It is a bit hard to contain this problem in typical solar panels, but some panels feature multiple busbars that reduce the risk of micro-cracks developing. Micro-cracks are not visible to the naked eye, and they can only be discovered through special testing.

3. Hotspots

Hotspots in Solar panels

This is another common problem with solar panels. Hotspots occur when certain parts of the solar panel get overloaded and become warm. They are typically caused by badly soldered spots and other structural defects that cause low resistance. Badly soldered spots, especially, will cause low resistance that particular part of the panel, causing the voltage to rise and leading to hotspots. The performance and lifespan of solar systems can be significantly affected by this problem. Quite often, short-circuiting occurs as a result of hotspots.   

4. Electrical Problems

Electrical Problems in Solar panels

It rarely occurs, but faulty wiring can affect the performance of a solar panel. Factors like corrosion, loose connections, and oxidation can also lead to electrical issues in solar panels. The thing about electrical problems is that they are not easily fixable, and you will need to contact a professional to examine the entire solar system. Nonetheless, electrical problems in solar panels are not so common.

5. PID Effect

PID Effect in solar panels

PID (Potential Induced Degradation) occurs as a result of the voltage difference between the solar panel and the earthing. As a result of this, the primary power circuit produces partial voltage discharge, which in turn leads to a reduction in the performance of the solar system and rapid degradation of the PV panel. However, PID effect can be easily reversed or prevented, with the help of a professional.

6. Snail Trail

Snail Trail in solar panels

This is one of the more common problems with solar panels. Snail trails typically manifest as brown lines on the surface of solar panels, as if snails have crawled on it. This problem only occurs after extensive use of the solar panels and can be caused by several factors. One common cause of snail trails is a defective silver paste used in the manufacture of the panels. As a result of this, oxidation occurs between the silver paste and the encapsulation EVA material. In turn, silver oxide, acetic acid, and hydrogen are released, causing a visible chemical breakdown on the surface of the panel. Microscopic cracks can also cause snail trails on solar panels.

7. Birds

Birds can also cause problems with solar panels. Solar panels installed on roofs are more likely to experience bird problems, as they tend to nest under the panels. More frequent cleaning is necessary when you have birds nesting around your panels because they will cover the panel surface with droppings. If you have birds nesting around your solar panel, you can install wires, mesh, or spikes to keep them away and prevent any damage to your panels.

8. Roof Problems

When solar panels are installed on the roof, they provide an additional layer of protection for the roof. However, some problems can occur as a result of this. Loose tiles can easily occur during the installation, so you should examine the roof immediately after installing the panels. As much as they offer protection for the roof, solar panels can also hide roof defects and make them hard to notice. Regular inspection of your roof is necessary if you have solar panels on them.

Troubleshooting Your Solar Panel

While it is not advisable that you tamper with your solar system's internal settings, there are some steps you can take to ascertain the exact problem when your solar system malfunctions. Solar panel problems can manifest as the entire system, not producing power or reduced overall power output. The first thing you should do is clean the solar panel surface. When dust, dirt, and grime accumulate on the surface, the cells will not receive sufficient light, and the power output is negatively impacted.

If thorough cleaning of the solar panel does not improve the performance, you should check the connections. You can do this by using a multimeter to check the voltage level at different points to ascertain the exact point where the faulty connection begins. Professional installation reduces the risk of bad connections in solar systems.

Delamination is typically visible to the naked eye, and you should be able to detect it by a physical examination of the panel. Snail trails are also distinctly noticeable on solar panel surfaces. However, defects like hotspots and micro-cracks cannot be noticed by the naked eye, and they require special testing. The best course of action is to get a trusted professional to examine your solar panels when you notice any sign of malfunction.

Conclusion

Solar panels are durable and easy to maintain, so there is a low chance of malfunctions occurring. Nonetheless, when they occur, establishing the exact cause can be quite overwhelming. A qualified professional will easily get to the root of your solar panel problems and proffer solutions. Quite often, all solar panels require is thorough cleaning to get back to optimal functionality. If you found this article interesting, please share it with your friends and family. If you would like to share your thoughts, do so in the comments section below.

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