Here's some disconcerting news on the failure rate of solar panels--not all, of course. Obviously, there's no reason to panic; every electrical/mechanical device has some failure rate. We will be watching closely our solar systems to see what potential degradation we experience.
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The link from the NY Times:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/business/energy-environment/solar-powers-dark-side.html?_r=0
Part of the article: LOS ANGELES — The solar panels covering a vast warehouse roof in the sun-soaked Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail.
Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated while other defects caused two fires that took the system offline for two years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.
It was not an isolated incident. Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption.
No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industrywide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult.
But at stake are billions of dollars that have financed solar installations, from desert power plants to suburban rooftops, on the premise that solar panels will more than pay for themselves over a quarter century.
The quality concerns have emerged just after a surge in solar construction. In the United States, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that solar panel generating capacity exploded from 83 megawatts in 2003 to 7,266 megawatts in 2012, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes. Nearly half that capacity was installed in 2012 alone, meaning any significant problems may not become apparent for years..."