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Solar Panels & Carbon Emissions

As the UK moves towards a greener future reducing carbon emissions is going to be a big part of our energy future. One of the best ways that we can all reduce our domestic carbon emissions is to take the carbon out of our energy supply chain as much as possible –and the best way to do that is through solar panels.

It’s important to understand that energy generated from solar panels is genuinely carbon and emission free. It is literally the power of the sun, being converted into electricity that your home can use, there is no carbon to burn in the process and nothing to emit any emissions. This is why solar energy is such a massive step in the right direction when it comes to securing a carbon neutral future.

Unfortunately there are plenty of sceptics out there who either for whatever reason refuse to believe in the proof that solar is a green, renewable source of energy. The counter argument that they like to use is that solar panels aren’t all they are supposed to be in terms of carbon savings. Naysayers make this argument because the process of creating a solar panel is actually carbon intensive.

Is Solar Power Really Carbon Free?

Manufacturing for solar panels involves creating silicon for solar cell use, which itself requires high amounts of water and electricity, plus chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and quite often solar panels are manufactured in places like China, where they use a lot of coal powered energy.

This paints quite a convincing picture that solar panels aren’t as green as they’re supposed to be, and that they’re definitely not carbon neutral. So, is this all true? Because solar panels don’t create any emissions when they generate energy, the only way to truly determine whether they are a way to move towards a greener future is the determine what kind of carbon offset they have.

Solar Power & Carbon Offset

A carbon offset is a fancy way of saying how much carbon do they produce throughout their life, weighed against how much they save. Or put another way, do solar panels save enough carbon through their use, to negate the amount of carbon produced when they’re manufactured? The answer to that is a resounding YES!

Solar power only produces between 9-180 grams of CO2 emissions for every kWh of electricity produced, compared to the average of 200 grams of CO2 for the same kWh of electricity if it was produced by a fossil fuel.

Broadly speaking solar panels have a 25 year lifespan before they start to lose efficiency, and should come with a guarantee that protects them for that amount of time. Most estimates for how long it takes for solar panels to pay back the emissions in their manufacture through their carbon savings say that it takes 1-3 years. Meaning that the emissions you will save through using solar panels will offset the emissions it takes to make them in a very short space of time, leaving you with at least 20 years of clean, green, free renewable energy to power your home!

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