Do Solar Panels Use More Energy Than They Generate?
You’ve probably heard the claim that solar panels take more energy to make than they generate. That’s a pretty crushing thing to hear if you’ve just hired an electrician to install a fancy new solar system in the belief that you’re doing the right thing for the environment. But is it true? We decided to look into it, and hopefully resolve the debate once and for all.
So here’s the claim: As you know, making solar panels requires energy. There’s the direct use of energy in the factory involved in the production of the panels, along with energy involved in the transportation of the panels and their components. Furthermore, you have to think about the energy debt involved in acquiring raw materials and converting them into the parts used to make solar panels.
That can add up fast, and a lot of solar plants are using fuels like coal to generate the energy they need for activities like melting silicon. Researchers Sally Benson and Michael Dale took a look at the industry’s energy needs and overall energy production for Environmental Science & Technology and published a paper detailing their findings. What they found will probably allow you to breathe a sigh of relief: solar panels generate more energy than they use, overall, and have been doing so since at least 2010.
These findings can be attributed to changes in solar technology, the growth of the industry, and more awareness when it comes to energy use in panel production. The industry has reached a tipping point, and these findings are also in line with what the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found when it’s looked into solar panels and whether they truly offer energy benefits.
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