(EnergyIndustry.Net, April 24, 2013 ) Compton, CA -- A Stanford University study recently released has suggested that the photovoltaic industry is now a net energy provider. Ever since 2000, the industry "required an enormous amount of energy, mostly from fossil fuels," the university reported. However, that may have all changed according to details released from the study.
The reports have shown that the analysis looked over photovoltaic industry at the global scale, according to Mik Dale, who is a postdoctoral scholar. The energy that is required to produce the solar panels Is intensive work, according to Dale, and includes the initial step of producing silicon requiring melting silica rock at over 3,000 degrees.
Dale also stated that unless PV panels pay back the energy that went into them, there is no successful form of solar energy. Thus, for the past 13 years during the panel boom, the industry was essentially unsuccessful, with panels taking up more energy than they produced.
Researchers are now expecting energy debt to be paid off within 3 years, according to the university report. That expectation comes from a decline in energy input, along with more durable panels and conversion efficiency rising. The university also reported that nearly 10% of all the world's electricity could be produced via PV by next decade.
“While the industry has been focused primarily on reducing financial costs of PV production, the study noted, energy cost reductions could be accomplished in a number of ways, including producing panels that require less energy use than silicon. More than 90 percent of the PV market is crystalline silicon,” Dale stated.
He also noted that newer forms of the modules can be created via a printing process, where the absorber material is screen printed by a roll. This takes the place of batch-like property of silicon.
Dale even hinted that the payback time could be further reduced if panels were installed in areas with high-quality resources such as the Southwest of the United States, the Middle east, or other predominantly sunny areas. "The PV industry is currently at the threshold," Dale stated. "It either became a net electricity producer around 2010, or in the worst case scenario, it will be in the next couple of years."