Solar panels made in Europe are ‘greener’ than those made in China

This report suggests that solar panels manufactured in China are likely to use more energy to make and have a […]


This report suggests 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.

Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, the new report from Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory stated.

The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.

solar panels china 1

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).

solar panels china 2



This second chart shows the carbon footprint of different types of solar panels as made in China (CN) or Europe (RER). 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).

“We estimated that a solar panel’s carbon footprint is about twice as high when made in China and used in Europe, compared to those locally made and used in Europe,” said Fengqi You, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern and corresponding author on the paper.

“While it might be an economically attractive option to move solar panel manufacturing from Europe to China, it is actually less sustainable from the life cycle energy and environmental perspective—especially under the motivation of using solar panels for a more sustainable future,” he said.

Original Story: Solar panel manufacturing is greener in Europe than China, study says — by DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

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