Reduce CO2 Emissions with Solar Panels
That old phrase “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” rings true in the field of renewable energy sources. It comes down to physics: It takes energy to produce energy. But, when you’re talking about solar energy, how much does it take?
Let’s not hide the fact that manufacturing solar panels requires resources, fossil fuels that release CO2 emissions and add to our carbon footprint. However, it’s been shown in numerous studies that solar panel production releases nowhere near as much CO2 and other greenhouse gases as electric generated from coal, oil, natural gas, etc. (And you still need to produce the equipment to generate electricity from those sources as well.)
So, what processes in the production and distribution of solar panels produce CO2?
- Mining for the materials, like silicon, to produce the solar cells
- Producing the solar cells, inverter and other equipment that goes into a solar PV array
- Transportation of solar cells
- Installation of the solar PV array
Taking all these factors into account, studies show that solar energy is still byfar, the cleaner, more environmentally-friendly choice over non-renewable energy resources like gas, coal and oil.
Solar Energy Facts and Figures
According to estimates from a number of trusted resources, such as Home Power magazine, manufacturing a 100-watt solar panel produces about 960 pounds of CO2. That may sound like a lot. Until you realize that, over its 30-year lifespan, that solar panel will produce enough electricity to offset 8,400 pounds of CO2 from a coal-burning power plant.
The graph on this blog shows that solar energy produces, on average, about 20 to 30 times less CO2 and greenhouse gases than energy from coal. These figures range from about 10 times less in partly sunny climates, to about 40 times less in optimal sunny conditions.
As solar technology develops and manufacturing processes improve, solar panels will require even less energy to produce. Of course, manufacturers can create a positive cycle by using solar energy in the plants that manufacture solar panels, reducing the carbon footprint of a solar energy installation even further.
What All This Means to Homeowners
If you consider yourself to be eco-conscious and you’re thinking about a solar PV installation for your home, there really is no downside. You’ll save money on your electric bills, reduce your home’s overall carbon footprint, and encourage the use of solar energy in other homes in your neighborhood by setting a good example.