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Published on December 26th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Solar Energy Payback Time (Charts)

December 26th, 2013 by  


The energy payback of solar panels is a topic that comes up from time to time here on CleanTechnica. The odd thing is that there are people who apparently know nothing about it but decide it’s their duty to tell people the energy payback of solar panels is a decade or more (which it is not!).

One of my solar stories recently got tweeted by Elon Musk, then subsequently submitted to a popular subreddit, then (of course) pounced on by loud nuclear fanatics (story all about that coming). One benefit from that process, however, is that it prompted some well-informed readers to drop some interesting solar charts and resources under my post. One of the comments linked to a Fraunhofer report that included some interested charts on the energy payback of solar power, which I thought should be shared with more people, so here they are:

energy payback solar trend

energy payback solar italy

energy payback solar germany

energy payback solar europe

So, as you can see, even with the technology of today, the energy payback of solar power is between ½ a year and 1½ years in Southern Europe and under 3 years in the rest of Europe (which has approximately the solar irradiance levels of Alaska). That’s quite a long time before the lifetime of solar panels, which have been shown to work to factory specs for over 30 years… and counting.

Bookmark this one for the next time you see one of those off-the-wall comments about the energy payback of solar panels.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.



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