Updated: November 1, 2023
Solar energy is currently seen as a far greener alternative compared to electricity generated from traditional sources. For most people, getting electricity from the sun — a completely renewable resource available for at least the next 5 billion years — seems like a much better prospect than drawing energy from fossil fuel sources.
Environmental Concerns About Solar Panels
Solar panels are made primarily of silicon. This material requires high levels of heat for proper shaping. Therefore, the solar panel manufacturing process does release a certain amount of CO2. The question is, does the process release enough CO2 to be considered an “unclean” source of energy?
How Much CO2 Does Solar Panel Manufacturing Release?
Accounting for the amount of CO2 produced during solar panel manufacturing, solar panels generate, in effect, around 50g of CO2 per kilowatt hour during their initial years of operation. This is about 20 times less than the carbon output of coal-powered electricity sources. Your panels will require about three years of operation to pay off their carbon debt and become carbon neutral.
As we mentioned, however, your system’s effective carbon debt is 20 times less than that of coal-powered electricity sources. This means you’ll immediately reduce your carbon footprint just by installing. After their first three years of use, the panels will reduce that footprint even further, with the system remaining carbon neutral throughout the remainder of its lifespan. Since solar panels generally last more than two decades, that’s a lot of carbon kept out of the atmosphere.
Solar Panel Manufacturing Keeps Getting Cleaner
It’s important to remember that solar panel design isn’t static. Product engineers and manufacturers continuously work to improve panel efficiency and lifespan. Additionally, as renewable energy becomes more common, the manufacturing process itself will become cleaner — hopefully leading to a future where there’s zero carbon created in the solar panel manufacturing process.
Want to Invest in Solar Panels?
If you’re interested in investing in solar panels, you’ve come to the right place. Our solar services team at GVEC Solar Services installs solar panel systems throughout much of South Central Texas. Call us today today at 855.898.8807 to learn more.