Years to “pay back” energy used in making solar panels in Europe vs. China
A new study by Argonne and Northwestern scientists reported that solar panels manufactured in China are likely to use more energy to make and have a larger carbon footprint than those made in Europe.
The chart above shows the number of years that a solar panel must operate in order to generate enough electricity to “pay back” the energy used to make the panel. Because there are fewer energy regulations in China, panels made there use more energy, according to the study (CN represents China; RER indicates Europe).
The colors in the bars represent contributions from the different stages of making a solar panel (e.g. “Si feedstock” represents the carbon emitted during mining and processing of raw silicon to make the panel).
Figure by Fengqi You et. al.