Is solar power truly CO2 free?
The energy required to make a solar panel from basic raw materials in the ground to finished panel is called the ‘embedded energy’ or ‘lifecycle energy’ cost of the panel. In most cases when the solar panel is installed on a roof and generating power it only takes around two years of the panels working life to recover this energy. In the case of a quality long-lasting panel a further 25 years or more of zero CO2 electricity will be produced.
Most solar companies use their own solar panels to power their panel manufacturing plants, so the consumption of fossil fuel derived energy to make panels is now very low and getting lower.
The second issue is how much Greenhouse House Gas (GHG) is avoided by using solar power, with the typical focus on Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the most significant greenhouse gas from fossil fuel electricity generation. In Australia each kWh of electricity generated from conventional sources creates approximately 1kg of CO2. A 6.6kw solar system will produce around 10,600 kwh a year which will save around 10.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Taking into account the two years to pay off the embedded energy in the panel, after 25 years a 6.6kw system will have a net saving of around 243 tonnes of CO2. You can be very confident that a quality solar system, well installed will make a huge contribution to lowering fossil fuel CO2 emissions.