How much electricity do we get back from the large amounts of energy invested in making solar panels? An impressively detailed paper from researchers at the University of Utrecht provides some answers to this crucial question. In short, conventional PV modules made next year will achieve ‘energy payback’ in not much more than a year. Some of the press commentary on the new article in Nature Communications focuses on this benign impact of solar and the scope for continuing improvements in energy use. Other writers took a very different tack. Instead of focusing on the rapid payback on the energy invested in the manufacturing processes of today, the journalists chose to concentrate on the much higher inputs in the past. This makes solar look less good. The headline on Ben Webster’s article in the London Times was ‘Solar panels less green than you think, say experts’. An anti-renewables US website’s headline was ‘Solar power actually made global warming worse, says new study’.
Carbon Commentary 8th Dec 2016 read more »