There is a carbon footprint associated with the manufacture of solar panels, and in the past this footprint has been quite high – mainly due to the relatively small volumes of panels being manufactured and chemicals required for the ‘doping’ of the silicon in the panels.
Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques and the higher volumes of panels now being produced, the carbon footprint of solar panels is now significantly reduced. Most manufacturers claim the carbon footprint of new solar panels can be recouped through the power generation from the panels within 2-5 years.
Therefore, it is true to say that solar power system that runs as a complete stand alone system can reduce our carbon footprint.
Grid tied solar systems are slightly different in their environmental benefit and their environmental payback varies quite dramatically from region to region, depending on a number of factors:
- How electricity is generated by the utilities in your area (coal, gas,
- Whether or not your electricity generation coincides with the peak electricity demand in your area (such as air conditioning usage in hot climates, or high electrical usage by heavy industry in your area)
Use the power you generate yourself as it is being generated – especially for high load applications such as clothes washing
- Minimise your power consumption from the national utility grid during peak times (typically during the evening in cooler climates and during the early to mid afternoon in hotter climates).
- Solar electricity can be a great source of power where your power requirements are modest, there is no other source of electricity easily available and you have a good amount of sunshine available.
- Solar electricity is not the same as solar heating.
- Solar electricity absorbs photons from sunlight to generate electricity. Electricity can still be generated on cloudy days and on bright moonlit nights.
- Solar electricity is unlikely to generate enough electricity to power the average family home, unless major economies in the household power requirements are made first.
- Larger solar electric systems have a comparatively high capital cost, but the ongoing maintenance costs are very low.
- Smaller solar electric system can actually be extremely cost effective to buy and install, even when compared to mains electricity.
- Solar electricity can be much cheaper than connecting a remote building to mains electricity.
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