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The Carbon Footprint of Solar Panels: What You Need to Know

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

When it comes to harnessing the power of the sun, solar panels have emerged as eco-friendly champions. But did you know that even these clean energy champions leave a carbon footprint behind? In this exploration, we'll dive into the fascinating world of solar panel carbon footprints, uncovering their journey from birth to retirement, and revealing how they stack up against one another.

Solar panels have come a long way in reducing their carbon footprint over the years. Thanks to innovations in manufacturing technology and a growing emphasis on sustainable materials, the impact of these energy marvels is shrinking. But let's not forget, there are still emissions tied to the production and use of solar panels.

When and Where CO2 Is Produced

Let's dissect the different phases of a solar panel's life cycle and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each:

  • Manufacturing: The journey of a solar panel's creation is a fascinating one, beginning with the extraction and refinement of raw materials, like silicon, and concluding with the assembly of solar modules. This intricate process unfolds across various factories and involves multiple stages, each contributing to the panel's carbon footprint. The production of ingots, wafers, solar cells, and module assembly all require energy-intensive processes, leaving their mark on the environment.

  • Transportation: It's important to acknowledge that the transportation of materials and components between manufacturing facilities, as well as from these facilities to installation sites, significantly contributes to the overall carbon footprint of solar panels. This carbon footprint varies depending on factors such as travel distance and transportation methods.

  • Installation: Installing solar panels either on rooftops or on the ground comes with a relatively small carbon footprint.

  • Operation: Once installed, solar panels diligently generate electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases.

  • Decommissioning: Finally, when a solar panel's time is up, it's removed and either recycled or disposed of, resulting in a minor carbon footprint.

Calculating a solar panel's overall carbon footprint involves adding up emissions from each life cycle stage. This gives us the complete carbon picture, from the cradle to the grave.

How Much CO2 is Emitted During the Lifetime of a Solar Panel

Typically, a solar panel's lifespan carbon footprint falls within the range of 400 kg CO2e / kW to 800 kg CO2e / kW. However, it's important to note that this range can vary based on factors like panel type, manufacturing process, transportation, and installation methods.

Comparing the Carbon Footprint of Different Types of Solar Panels

Not all solar panels are created equal when it comes to carbon footprints. Here's how some popular types stack up:

  • HJT Solar Panels: These shine as environmental stars, boasting a lower carbon footprint compared to TOPCon and PERC panels. Why? Fewer manufacturing steps, lower production temperatures, and less silicon usage all contribute to their greener profile.

  • TOPCon and PERC Solar Panels: While still eco-friendly, these panels require more manufacturing steps and higher production temperatures, which can increase their carbon footprint.

Solar Cell Type Production Steps Process Temperature (°C)

HJT 4 200-300

TOPCon 10 >850

PERC 8 >850

Metawolf Solar HJT:

As the world pivots towards greener energy solutions, the carbon footprint of solar panels is a critical factor to consider. Currently, HJT solar cells take the lead, thanks to their streamlined manufacturing process, lower temperature requirements, and reduced silicon usage.

At Metawolf Solar, we stand at the forefront of innovation and proudly provide these carbon net zero champions – HJT solar panels. Metawolf Solar HJT series of products has a low carbon footprint of less than 400 g CO2 / Watt, which is about 40% less than conventional solar panels.

Want to become a Metawolf Solar distributor to shape a greener future together? Get started here.

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