Solar Power Already More Efficient Than Oil

A major scientific review has determined that solar can generate more energy than oil and is twice as powerful than originally thought.

The review has found that scientists are significantly underestimating the power and energy efficiency of solar panels as their data is about seven years out of date.

As a result, they have overlooked impressive information: that for each unit of energy invested, solar panels can produce the same amount of energy or even more than what oil and gas do.

As there are significant fossil-fuel related and political forces standing in the way, it will take longer than it should for the impact to really hit societies. However, the data is clear- solar is kicking oil and gas right off the cliff.

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews published a study looking at 29 reports comparing solar photovoltaics (PV) generated energy to the energy required to install and produce the solar panels.

By collaborating this information, the review captured a figure for how much energy solar PV’s can produce today.

The findings were startling- the out-dated data has resulted in a failure to calculate how far solar power has progressed over the years.

When on par with oil, solar is expected to double in power than what had been previously predicted.

Half the time and twice the power

According to the study, “Energy input costs are typically overestimated as recent technological improvements are not captured,”recommending the in the future, studies should “use recent data reflecting up-to-date technological standards.”

Using data from 2009 and onwards, study author and doctoral researcher Rembrandt Koppelaar came up with his “best estimate” of solar technology advancements, which finds that solar can produce 14 times as much energy invested into creating the panels- about double what the majority of studies are stating.

In addition, he found that is takes roughly two years for the panel to generate the same amount of energy that it takes to actually create the panel.

According to Koppelaar, only five out of 29 studies are using recent data, giving an example of one study that uses data from 1998.

Basically, some of the circulating figures are referencing decades old technology, and we can see now that solar has double the power than first thought.

Oil and gas efficiency declining

Oil and gas once produced around 15 times the power invested, but this figure is rapidly decreasing and now produces roughly 11 times the energy in the US.

Meaning, if solar power is producing 14 times the level of energy invested, it has already passed the energy efficiency of oil and gas per unit of energy invested.

The decline in oil quality as a resource is also affecting long-term economic growth, making it harder to reach and with increasing costs.

If the transition to more stable sources that produce more energy per unit such as solar is not made, it’s clear that the economy will continue to worsen.

85 per cent of the population lives where there is a large amount of sunlight, making solar panels potentially be able to produce even more energy.

The solar revolution is inevitable- solar power is predicted to continue to grow in efficiency and affordability, while fossil fuels such as gas and oil fall.

IMAGE via Trocaire


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The Author

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.