Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Solar Panels Are Finally Generating More Energy Than They Use Solar Panels Are Finally Generating More Energy Than They Use

This ad will end in seconds
 
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation
 

 

Energy

Solar Panels Are Finally Generating More Energy Than They Use

Rooftop solar panels at the Department of Energy(DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY)

April 5, 2013

You want an inconvenient truth? Here’s one: Despite the exponential growth of solar energy over the past 13 years, the global production of photovoltaic panels has consumed more electricity than the panels themselves generate, according to a new Stanford University study.

As recently as 2008, the photovoltaic (PV) industry used 75% more energy than it generated (paywall), found the paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Geology

Such figures, of course, could prove highly problematic for an industry whose existence is predicated on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by supplying carbon-free electricity.

 

Now for the good news. There’s more than a 50% chance that the industry reached a tipping point last year and is now producing more electricity than it consumes. By 2020, it should have paid back all the power it consumed since 2000, according to the analysis conducted by Stanford researchers Michael Dale and Sally Benson. “Developing new technologies with lower energy requirements will allow us to grow the industry at a faster rate,” Benson said in statement.

The solar industry’s energy deficit was a natural consequence of the rapid expansion of photovoltaic power in the first decade of the 21st century. Installed worldwide solar capacity grew on an average of 40% a year, expanding from 1,200 megawatts in 2000 to 22,900 megawatts in 2010. 

By 2012, the cumulative amount of electricity generated by those hundreds of millions of solar panels probably began outstripping the energy embedded in their production. As long as the panels continue to function for their 25-year-life span, that energy surplus will continue to accumulate. 

Whew.



Latest from Quartz:
Loading feed...

LIKE THIS STORY? Sign up for Energy Edge

Sign up for our daily newsletter and stay on top of energy coverage.

Sign up form for Energy Edge
Job Board
Search Jobs
Digital and Content Manager, E4C
American Society of Civil Engineers | New York, NY
PRODUCT REVIEW ENGINEER
American Society of Civil Engineers | CA
Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services Intern
American Society of Civil Engineers | Bellevue, WA
United Technologies Research Fellow
American Society of Civil Engineers | New York, NY
Process Engineering Co-op
American Society of Civil Engineers | Conshohocken, PA
Electrical Engineer Co-op
American Society of Civil Engineers | Findlay, OH
Application Engineer/Developer INTERN - Complex Fluids
American Society of Civil Engineers | Brisbane, CA
Application Engineer - Internships CAE/CFD Metro Detroit
American Society of Civil Engineers | Livonia, MI
Chief Geoscientist
American Society of Civil Engineers
Application Engineer - Internships CAE/CFD Metro Boston
American Society of Civil Engineers | Burlington, MA
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Civil Enginering Intern - Water/Wastewater/Site-Development
American Society of Civil Engineers | Sacramento, CA
Staff Accountant
American Society of Civil Engineers | Englewood, CO
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
 
Comments
comments powered by Disqus