What is a solar panel’s energy payback period?


Will the energy used to manufacture a solar panel counteract the environmental benefits of having solar?

While we know installing a solar PV system provides a home with substantial financial benefits and lowers your household carbon emissions, there are still pessimists out there who question the energy payback period and pollution associated with manufacturing solar panels.

solar energy payback

In the early days of solar PV, solar panels were a lot less efficient, meaning the energy payback periods were longer, however, these days as technology has advanced the expected energy payback time for a solar panel has decreased to 1-4 years.

As a solar panel’s life expectancy is estimated at 25 years, it’s safe to say the environmental benefits over the solar panel’s lifespan will outweigh any pollution that occurs during the manufacturing process.

Based on recent reports by NREL and Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) the 1-4-year payback period can vary per type of panel, it’s efficiency and the geographical location that the solar PV system is installed. 

“In Australia, the International Energy Agency calculated the energy payback period for a solar power system to be under two years. This means a solar power system takes less than two years to generate enough energy to break even on the amount of energy taken to manufacture it.” Cleantechnica

Eventually, the manufacturing of solar panels will be able to be done via renewable energy making the energy payback period irrelevant.

benefits of residential solar power

Discover even more benefits with solar power

Lowering your household carbon emissions is just one of the advantages of installing solar power at your home. On top of this you can;

  • Reduce your electricity bills and have less reliance on energy retailers by generating your own FREE energy
  • Increase your property value, making it more desirable in the real estate market
  • Protect yourself from rising electricity rates and more!

Get closer to enjoying these benefits by receiving obligation free solar quotes from local installers and compare solar system prices to get the best deal.

Request FREE solar quotes today and be put in touch with local solar providers


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Download Your FREE Ultimate Guide to Solar Power in Australia - 2021 Edition

Beginners Guide to Solar Power

If you’re considering solar for your property or just looking to maximise the savings for your solar system, download a FREE copy of our "Ultimate Guide to Solar Power in Australia - 2021 Edition".

Become an expert and better understand the ins and outs of solar power and solar PV systems for your property.

Includes detailed explanations and diagrams of the various types of solar systems and their parts, solar battery storage systems, Government incentives, expected ROI periods, finance, energy-saving tips and more!

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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