Newly crowned as net producer, PV looks to full payback of dirty energy debt

holy grail film poster

Yes folks, we’ve reached the holy grail.

Always rewarding to bring readers good solar news and this week’s offering is just that. The achievement/milestone/breakthrough (call it what you will) is that the amount of the energy produced by global PV solar power has surpassed the amount of fossil fuel energy needed to make the panels.

It seems fairly certain that a tipping point has been reached, or will be reached in the very near future, say researchers at Stanford University.

As the Stanford researchers explain in a April 2 press release, the making of solar panels since the industry first stretched its legs (around 2000) has involved a great deal of fossil fuels in their manufacture. However as the Stanford folk say, for the first time since the PV boom, the amount of clean energy generated by the solar panels has surpassed the amount of “dirty” energy needed in their manufacture.

Here’s the key quote from the Stanford media release:

“This analysis shows that the industry is making positive strides,” said Michael Dale, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Global Climate & Energy Project (GCEP), who developed a novel way of assessing the industry’s progress globally in a study published in the current edition of Environmental Science & Technology. “Despite its fantastically fast growth rate, PV is producing – or just about to start producing – a net energy benefit to society.”

The PV industry has therefore become a net energy producer, thereby kicking away one of the last remaining complaints from our solar nark (fossil fuel fans or FFF) friends. The nice FFF folk may have to revert to the visual pollution whine that works so effectively on wind turbines.

But wait there’s more (as they say in the steak knife ads).

Not only is the PV industry making great strides as a net energy producer but also closing in on the much harder goal of paying back all energy that went into their production. Crucially, due to improved technology, more efficient and longer lasting solar panels and reduced energy inputs, this target may be met as early as 2015.

Now a net producer of energy to world society with an eye on the full energy manufacture payback target, the global advance of solar power is making the lives of fossil fuel fans a misery.


  1. So solar panel factories don’t use clean power?

  2. Stuart Brown says

    Just doing some back of the cereal box figures, if solar reduces in price per kWh by the historical average. Halving every 2.5 years, apart from the 19 year conservative deinvestment phase, where it only halved. If it halves, then 8 times as much will likely be produced, if it halves again, then 64 times as much again, will be produced. If it halves again, another 250 times as much again, will be produced.

    The demand will exponentially increase, as the price goes down, if big silicon has 2 trillion dollars in capital reserves. If real estate globally is worth 100 trillion dollars. Then in an industrial revolution, people will take on reverse mortgages, worth 10 trillion dollars to invest, mostly for their retirement. Most of which will be roll over reinvested, each time the price halves. That’s how solar farms will go, from the world renewable energy total, of what 100 GeW, to 10 Quadrillion Watts. Or maximum 10 trillion tons a year of liquid hydrogen.

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