The real cost of cheap solar panels  

Offbeat climate website published an article about the environmental impact of manufacturing cheap solar panels, particularly in China.

Citing a study by Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy, the carbon footprint of manufacturing solar panels is brought into focus. Drawing electricity from environmentally unfriendly sources like coal reduces the net benefit of installing solar panels, some of the initial electricity generated by the solar panel will counteract the emissions from manufacturing the panel to begin with.

Quoting Louise Lerner at Argonne National Laboratory:

Assuming that a solar panel is made of silicon—by far the most common solar panel material—and is installed in sunny southern Europe, a solar panel made in China would take about 20 to 30 percent longer to produce enough energy to cancel out the energy used to make it. The carbon footprint is about twice as high.

The biggest reason is that China has fewer environmental and efficiency standards for its factories and plants and generates more electricity from coal and other non-renewable sources, the authors said.

While it’s true that solar panels manufactured in China take longer to overcome their emissions deficit, this doesn’t necessarily mean they should be dismissed. As Chinese manufactured panels are less cost prohibitive, customers can install larger systems and due to the life span of solar panels, the emission reductions can last for many decades.

Solar Sunwerx use Jinko Solar panels as their primary supplier. For many years Jinko have been recognised as a certified CleanTech Driver by the Deutsches CleanTech Institut (DCTI), utilising high-efficiency facilities, control chemical deposition and CO2 emissions and recycling of industrial waste.

All solar panels are more eco-friendly than traditional means of electricity production. US scientists have estimated the emissions from the life-cycle of a solar panel to be from 0.08 to 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. This stacks up against natural gas at 0.6-2 lbs of CO2E/kWh and coal 1.4-3.6 lbs of CO2E/kWh.