Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Solar panels now make more electricity than they use

"We are going into break-even" - Stanford University

Solar energy has short history in Malaysia, at least in terms of "installed capacity".

But when the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) started promoting the renewable energy in 2009, many quarters started to became aware of the benefit and incentives available. Thanks to the ministry's (then) Chief Technical Advisor for renewable energy, Ir Ahmad Hadri Haris. He came to Sabah on few occasions to give talks and seminars on RE, and one of the inetersting topics is solar PV.

Then people started to ask question: Is the electricity generated by the PV panels more than the energy to make them?

Solar panels generate more energy than they used?

Solar panels make energy, but they take energy to make, too. It was thought that more electricity is used to produce them than electricity they generate during their lifespan. But according to Stanford University, by 2020, the industry is set to "pay back" the energy it used. [check out the above video clip].

A study by Michael Dale and Sally Benson looked at what went into building and installing solar panels all over the world, including everything from home installations to solar farms. Most solar panels manufacturers now consume lots of electricity, usually pulled from coal or other fossil fuel-burning plants.

Stanford News pointed to the example of melting silica rock to obtain the silicon used in most panels. The melting requires electricity to fire ovens to a temperature of about 3,000o F.

"I think that this paper shows that actually the industry is making positive strides and it's even in spite of its fantastically fast growth rates, it's still producing, or it's just about to start producing, a net energy benefit to society."
-Michael Dale, climate and energy researcher, Stanford University

The researchers believe that solar panels' energy balance is now tipping, however, because newer technologies reduce that electricity consumption. For example, some newer panels require less silicon, or waste less material in the manufacturing process.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

This reminds me of the never ending argument on viability of using solar cells (PV) to generate electricity. Some people think that solar power is not viable yet as it is still very expensive. Take the subsidy out of the equation and the industry will take a massive tumble, they say.

The efficiency of solar panel is just about 21% to 25% at the moment, so, yes I tend to agree with the notion that we are forcing an inefficient technology on people.

But then again, if not now, then when? We can not wait for the fossil fuel to deplete before we embark on new alternatives, can we?

Refer: Video by Stanford Uni. Other story by Popular Science


Annmarie Pipa said...

we get wonderful tax breaks if we use solar most new construction has some type of solar power.

Situs Top Info said...

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James said...

It may be expensive for now but the future is headed. The demands for power is great and it seems that the supply is finite. Solar power is inexhaustible.