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Do solar panels take more energy to manufacture than they ever produce?

asked 2015-02-20 13:28:37 -0500

OverDawn gravatar image

I've heard that solar panels never 'pay off' their 'energy debt' - that it takes more energy to produce one than they'll ever generate in their lifetime. From an environment perspective, going solar wouldn't be worth it (especially if fossil fuels are used in the manufacturing process!) What's the energy payback period for the average solar panel?

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answered 2015-03-04 11:34:35 -0500

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updated 2015-03-04 11:34:35 -0500

energysage gravatar image

Hi OverDawn,

This is definitely false. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, depending on the technology, the energy payback period for a rooftop solar system is 1-5 years.

There are lots of factors that influence a solar system's energy payback period, but the main ones are the energy used in manufacture of components, how far those components needed to be shipped and where the panels are put into operation (e.g. if the system is in a sunny spot like Arizona, the payback time will be shorter).

Another thing to consider is what the electricity carbon emissions benchmark is in the place you plan to have the panels installed. If you live somewhere where coal is the primary source of electricity, there's no question that going solar will result in a net reduction in CO2 emissions. (Lindsay Wilson at the Energy Collective put together an interesting piece on the topic based on an academic paper. It's well worth a read.)

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Asked: 2015-02-20 13:28:37 -0500

Seen: 437 times

Last updated: Mar 04 '15