How Much Energy to Make a Solar Panel? (True Figures)

We can tell you if you wonder how much energy it takes to manufacture a single solar panel. Though the answer is highly variable, in general terms, it takes about 200kWh to create a 100-watt solar panel.

In this article, we discuss:

  • The energy needed to make solar panels
  • The reason why it is a variable answer as to how much energy it takes to make solar panels
  • The carbon footprint of solar panels
  • How solar energy benefits the environment

But, as mentioned, the number is not as straightforward as it seems. Keep reading, though, and we go into just what that means. 

Electric Pylons In The Sunset
Electric Pylons In The Sunset

How much energy does it take to make a solar panel? 

It takes about 200kWh of energy to make a single 100-watt solar panel.

How much energy does it take to make a solar panel? How you answer that question depends on the solar panel. Since there are different types of solar panels, there will be different answers.

In addition, those answers will change as technology continues to improve the process we manufacture solar panels. If you are concerned that solar panels use more energy than they create, you can simmer down, as that myth is 100 percent false. 

We are talking about the energy needed to make the panel physically. However, that may seem like a lot of energy, and one solar panel will produce a lot of energy in its life. Here’s a look at that:

One hundred watts x 10 hours of direct sunlight per day = 1000 watts of energy per day. 1000 × 365 days per year = 365kWh of energy per year.

Because most solar panels have a warranty of 25 years, you are looking at 9,125kWh of energy over its lifespan. To paint this picture a little brighter, let’s assume it costs $0.10 for a kWh of energy. So:

  • $.10 x 200kWh = $20 = About $20 in costs to make the panel. 
  • $.10×365 = $36.50 worth of energy per year
  • $36.50 × 25 years = 912.50 in energy production per lifecycle (25-years.) 
  • X 20 panels = $18,250 in energy production for a 20 panel array over 25 years. 

You can change the cost of energy to fit your location as energy costs change. For example, if you thought the cost of producing a single collar panel was high, you might have a different opinion now.

  • About a $20 investment in energy results in creating a single 100-watt solar panel, bringing in a return of $912.50 – $20 = $892.50 per year. 
Solar Energy Power Farm. Aerial View Of Solar Panels. - Sol Voltaics: Solar Panel Information
Solar Energy Power Farm. Aerial View Of Solar Panels.

How much energy does it take to produce a solar panel?

There are a lot of varying factors involved in answering this question. We have a “loose” answer: it would cost about 200kWh of energy to produce a 100-watt panel.

However, the reality is a little different as energy costs are at different prices in different areas. You also have to define what “the solar panel” is before you can answer that question. 

A better way to look at this might be to ask how much energy a solar panel produces in its lifetime and how that green energy helps the environment.

For example, making 1 kWh of electricity using traditional methods produces about .92 pounds of CO2 (Carbon dioxide.)

That fact is one of the reasons that solar energy is so valuable to the environment. Aside from the energy needed to produce the panels, which now can be solar, solar energy does not produce CO2. 

To determine how much energy a solar panel can produce in its lifetime, you need the following information:

  1. The wattage of the panel
  2. The average number of hours of direct sunlight per day
  3. Average hours of sunny days per year

To determine how much energy a solar panel produces in a day, multiply the watts times the number of average direct sunlight the panel receives.

For example, a 300-watt solar panel receiving five hours of direct sunlight will produce 300 watts of energy per hour or 1,500 watts per day.

Convert that to kWh, and divide the total amount of watts produced by 1000. In the example, you come up with 1.5kWh per day.

Solar Energy Plant. - Sol Voltaics: Solar Panel Information
Solar Energy Plant.

Annual Production of a Solar Panel

To figure out the annual energy production, take the daily production and multiply it by 365 days. So in the example, we had 1.5kWh per day, making an annual energy production of 547.50kWh per year.

So if 1kWh of energy is produced using traditional electricity and one pound of CO2, then a solar panel producing 547.5kWh keeps 547.50 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually.

Suppose you consider that the average home has a solar array of 20 panels. In that case, you are looking at a hugely positive impact on reducing greenhouse gasses before they are even created. 

Picture Of A Coal Power Plant. - Sol Voltaics: Solar Panel Information
Picture Of A Coal Power Plant.

What is the carbon footprint of making a solar panel?

Sources listed below suggest that the carbon footprint of a solar array is roughly 20 times smaller than that of a power plant producing the same amount of energy.

The solar array has a first-year carbon emission rating of about 50g. That is due to the way solar panel manufacturing occurs. 

As the solar panel ages, it earns back the carbon emissions produced during its manufacturing. In 3-4 years of operation, the solar array enters net zero, producing enough clean energy to erase the energy and greenhouse gasses used to create the array.

It is possible now that a solar panel manufacturing plant could use solar energy rather than traditional energy created by burning fossil fuels. If that were to occur, the carbon footprint of the panels from that plant would leave the plant at a net-zero status. 

Do solar photovoltaic panels produce more energy than it takes to make them?

Theoretically, solar photovoltaic panels can produce more energy than it takes to create them. However, in reality, how you answer that question depends on:

  1. The number of direct sunlight hours the panel receives each day. A solar panel that receives shade in the afternoon will produce far less energy than the same solar panel in a desert that receives full sun for 8-10 hours daily. 
  2. The size of the panel is essential.

Overall, solar panels produce a lot more energy than it takes to manufacture them, and the energy they produce is green energy, free of greenhouse gases. 


General Solar Panel FAQ

What Problems Do Solar Panels Solve?

In environmental terms, solar panels can potentially solve a handful of problems, including;
1. Air pollution
2. Water pollution
3. Greenhouse gases
4. Reduction in fossil fuel use

For individuals, solar energy allows you to become completely self-sufficient when it comes to your electricity needs and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

What Are 3 Important Uses Of Solar Panels?

The three most important uses of solar panels are;
1. Solar electricity. This can be used to power almost any appliance in your home, including TVs, computers, and fridges.
2. Lighting. In addition to the use of low-power, LED lightbulbs, solar panels can provide an efficient, low-cost, and environmentally friendly way to provide lighting to homes. 
3. Portable solar. In our modern, always-connected lives, our phones, tablets, and computers are almost always with us, and all run on batteries. Portable PV chargers can help keep our batteries topped up no matter where we are, as long as there is some sun to charge them.

Do solar panels give you free electricity?

Once the cost of the array is paid in full, the energy it produces is free. There are ongoing maintenance costs, too, such as annual panel cleaning, etc. 

How much will my electric bill be with solar panels?

Suppose your solar array includes a solar battery backup system, and it is large enough to fully cover your energy usage per day. In that case, your monthly electric bill will be next to zero dollars, even with a grid-tied system. 

If your solar array does not include a solar battery backup system, then at night, your house or business will use grid electricity. That cost will vary but expect to pay from 1/3-2/3 of your average electric bill, and that cost will fluctuate seasonally. 

Do you save money with solar panels?

The simple answer is, Yes, you save money with solar panels. There is an initial upfront cost, but since solar panels are warrantied for 25 years, you will save money over time. You will also begin to see monthly savings in energy bills, but there are other ways that solar panels pay you back. Those include:
1. Adding value to your home or commercial building 
2. Monthly decreases in energy costs
3. The ability to add more energy appliances without increased monthly costs
4. The potential for tax credits for going solar

Can solar panels power a house 24-7?

Most definitely! Solar panels can certainly power a house 24-7, with the addition of a high-quality inverter and a suitable battery bank, of course. To power, a house under normal usage will require a massive solar array, though, and there will be a very expensive initial financial outlay.

Do I need to tell my energy supplier I have solar panels?

This depends on where you live, but in most cases, it’s not necessary to inform your energy supplier that you have solar panels. That said, you may be producing excess power with your solar system, in which case you may be able to sell that excess power back to energy companies.

In this case, you’ll naturally need to be in contact with them. 

What Are Solar Cells Known as and Why?

Solar cells are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells. They are called so because the term ‘photovoltaic’ literally means light i.e. photo and electricity i.e. voltaic.

These cells generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect basically causes the generation of free electrons from the semiconducting silicon material of the solar panel when sunlight hits its surface.

What Type of Solar Panels Are Most Efficient and Why?

There are currently three types of solar panels available in the market that are:
1. Monocrystalline
2. Polycrystalline
3. Thin-filmed

Among these, monocrystalline solar panels are known to be the most efficient among all others.

Does heat enter your home through the roof?

Absolutely. Heat enters your home through your roof, and on a hot day your attic can get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Through conduction, heat from the sun warms your roof which then warms your attic and the rest of your home.

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