Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Fine Cut

Fine Cut

Start watching
SoCal Wanderer

SoCal Wanderer

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
Tending Nature
New Special Airing Nov. 14

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Solar Panels Take Energy to Make, But Process Getting More Efficient

Support Provided By

One of the criticisms that's been leveled at the photovoltaic panel industry is that it can take more energy to make the panels than the panels produce over their usable lifespan. But a new study indicates that that may no longer be true, and that the PV panel industry may "pay back" the energy invested in all previous years of panel production as early as 2020.

 
It takes energy to make PV panels, especially the highly efficient, old-school crystalline silicon kind. Even just creating the silicon crystals requires heating rock or sand to around 3,000°F, and that's not counting the creation of the electronics that connect the silicon wafers to the grid, and the mounting hardware that holds the whole thing together. And then there's the energy used to ship the panels and install them.

As recently as 2010, according to a study by Michael Dale and Sally M. Benson at Stanford University's Global Climate and Energy Project, the amount of energy it took to fabricate and install photovoltaic panels may well still have outstripped the energy end-users gained by using them -- a classic example of a negative Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI).

But according to that study, recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a combination of more efficient manufacturing processes and greater energy productivity at the "user-end" mean that PV manufacturing was probably already energy positive by 2012, using less energy in manufacture than is created when the panels are used. And by 2020, say Dale and Benson, the surplus EROEI from photovoltaic power will likely be large enough to "pay back" the energy deficit accrued in all those earlier years of PV manufacturing.

Dale and Stanford University produced a video to explain the results of the study in laypersons' terms (hat tip to Francie Diep at PopSci for the link):

Which means that at some point soon, the energy investment our global society has put into PV will start to pay off. If it hasn't already.

Support Provided By
Read More
 Sign reading "Imperial Beach" with sunset in the background.

A Small-Town Mayor Sued the Oil Industry. Then Exxon Went After Him.

The mayor of Imperial Beach, California, says big oil wants him to drop the lawsuit demanding the industry pay for the climate crisis.
South Central Los Angeles

Black and Brown Residents Face Uphill Battle for Homeownership in This L.A. Neighborhood

Examining how the historic area is becoming gentrified via homebuying trends over the last decade and how an organization is promoting wealth building and homeownership for longtime residents of color.
Freeways crisscross and a lot of concrete infrastructure as seen overhead

Meet the People Featured in 'City Rising: Youth and Democracy'

"City Rising: Youth & Democracy" follows the stories of youth leaders, allies and organizations as they challenge institutional and systemic issues through civic engagement. Learn more about the people and organizations featured in this season.