Solar breeder: Energy payback time for silicon photovoltaic systems

Source: NTRS

ABSTRACT The energy expenditures of the prevailing manufacturing technology of terrestrial photovoltaic cells and panels were evaluated, including silicon reduction, silicon refinement, crystal growth, cell processing and panel building. Energy expenditures include direct energy, indirect energy, and energy in the form of equipment and overhead expenses. Payback times were development using a conventional solar cell as a test vehicle which allows for the comparison of its energy generating capability with the energies expended during the production process. It was found that the energy payback time for a typical solar panel produced by the prevailing technology is 6.4 years. Furthermore, this value drops to 3.8 years under more favorable conditions. Moreover, since the major energy use reductions in terrestrial manufacturing have occurred in cell processing, this payback time directly illustrates the areas where major future energy reductions can be made -- silicon refinement, crystal growth, and panel building.

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