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Studies Show PV Panels Return Embodied Energy in 1-3 Years

Sometimes renewable energy skeptics question how much energy it takes to produce and ship a solar panel in comparison to how much energy the solar panel will produce.  If, for example, it took more energy to manufacture the panel than the panel would every produce in its lifetime, it would not be reducing the carbon footprint it was designed to offset.

However, new studies are showing that it takes less than 3 years for one solar panel to offset its “embodied energy.”  After that, all the energy that the panel produces is completely clean and does not need to be accounted for in any manufacturing processes or raw materials used to make the panel.

One study concludes, “Unlike conventional energy sources, PV systems produce clean electricity for decades after achieving their energy payback in three or fewer years—this is truly the magic of PV technology.”

Read the full studies here:

PV Embodied Energy from Home Power Magazine

PV Embodied Energy from Energy & Environmental Economics


  • Steve Tavan


    How many years should it take for a home owner to recoup purchase and installation cost from less expensive energy from one of your systems? I am a Newton, MA home owner with gas-powered stove, heat, hot water, and clothes dryer.


  • Sarah Post author

    @Steve, The payback period on a PV system (used to offset electricity usage) is typically between 4 and 7 years in Massachusetts. Your payback should be on the shorter side since most of your appliances are gas-powered.

    Solar domestic hot water systems can offset the natural gas used to heat hot water for the purposes of bathing, doing laundry, and washing dishes.

    Please call call us at (617) 332-1870, or samantha [dot] greenberg [at] sunlightsolar [dot] com for more information.


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