One of the myths that has floated around about Solar Energy is that it takes more energy to produce, transport and install solar panels then the amount the panels will ever be able to generate in their lifetime.
Quite simply, this is untrue.
Based on models and real data, the idea that PV cannot pay back its energy investment is simply a myth. In fact in Australia the energy payback time for Solar PV is generally under 2 years, meaning that your average PV system will provide 28 years of pollution and greenhouse gas free electricity.
To debunk this myth lets look at a fact sheet published by the US Department of Energy, What is the energy payback for PV:
Producing electricity with photovoltaics (PV) emits no pollution, produces no greenhouse gases, and uses no finite fossil-fuel resources. The environmental benefits of PV are great. But just as we say that it takes money to make money, it also takes energy to save energy. The term œenergy payback captures this idea. How long does a PV system have to operate to recover the energy – and associated generation of pollution and CO2 – that went into making the system, in the first place?
Energy payback estimates for both rooftop and ground-mounted PV systems are roughly the same, depending on the technology and type of framing used. Paybacks for multicrystalline modules are 4 years for systems using recent technology and 2 years for anticipated technology.
For thin-film modules, paybacks are 3 years using recent technology, and just 1 year for anticipated thin-film technology. With assumed life expectancies of 30 years, and taking into account the fossil-fuel-based energy used in manufacture, 87% to 97% of the energy that PV systems generate won’t be plagued by pollution, greenhouse gases, and depletion of resources.
Based on models and real data, the idea that PV cannot pay back its energy investment is simply a myth. Indeed, researchers Dones and Frischknecht found that PV-systems fabrication and fossil-fuel energy production have similar energy payback periods (including costs for mining, transportation, refining, and construction).
In Australia the energy payback time for Solar PV systems is actually even lower then in the US, due to our abundant sunshine. The International Energy Agency concluded in a 2006 study that in Australia the energy payback time for PV was under 2 years. And according to the Queensland Governments Energy Futures website on Photovoltaic Electricity a 1 kilowatt photovoltaic generating system will eliminate about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime.
So don’t be confused by misinformation, the fact is that solar panels are a clean, efficient way to generate electricity. What’s more, they are the way of the future.
Solar Energy Consultant
Solar Choice Pty Ltd
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