Have you ever heard it said, “It takes more electricity to make a solar panel than it will ever produce?” This is an urban myth that has been circulating since the 1980’s.
Although a difficult statistic to calculate, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, has performed a study to find the correct answer to this question. The study found that monocrystalline panels reach the energy payback point in 5-10 years, polycrystalline panels in 3-5 years, and amorphous silicon panels in 0.5-2 years. Be advised that because the question is so vague, there is a large margin for error with these figures!
In the January 2001 issue of Home Power magazine, there is a very detailed study about solar panel energy payback time. This study, by Karl Knapp, PhD, and Teresa Jester, finds payback time for a standard module to be about 3.3 years, and 1.8 years on a thin-film panel. The study factors in energy costs for ALL parts of the panel and manufacturing process.
The new REC 245W solar panels as used by Gold Coast Solar Power Solutions use a new technology to process the silicone in their solar panels which brings the energy payback time down to around 1 year, making the REC solar panels a great choice from the energy payback viewpoint as well.
Hopefully this research puts to rest this myth once and for all!