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Natural Awakenings

Pivot Point: Solar Panels Almost Breaking Even

Sep 30, 2013 12:15PM

At current growth rates, solar energy could be harnessed to produce 10 percent of the world’s electricity by 2020. But the greater benefit of clean solar power relies on first realizing an efficient initial payback for all the energy needed to produce the panels. To make polysilicon, the basic building block of most solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, silica rock must be melted at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, using electricity from mostly coal-fired power plants. Stanford University researchers believe that a tipping point when clean electricity from installed solar panels surpasses the energy going into the industry’s continued growth will occur by 2015.

As the industry has advanced, it’s required ever less energy and silicon to manufacture and install solar PV panels, along with less wasted silicon, according to Stanford University’s Global Climate & Energy Project. Advances in solar cell efficiency requires fewer panels, and new thin-film solar panels leave out silicon altogether.


Source: Sustainable Business News

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