The truth about solar panels – do the pros outweigh the cons?

The truth about solar panels – do the pros outweigh the cons?

Head to to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain using code MATTFERRELL. The truth about solar panels – do the pros outweigh the cons? Solar power has seen record growth over the past decade, created an incredible number of new jobs, and is one of the most affordable forms of generating energy. But with all of those panels popping up across rooftops and open areas, what happens when it comes time to replace them? And do the environmental impacts of manufacturing solar panels outweigh the benefits?

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Undecided with Matt Ferrell says:

What's your take on solar? If you liked this video, be sure to check out "The truth about wind turbines – how bad are they?"

And be sure to check out my podcast where my brother I talk through some of your feedback! Still To Be Determined:

Fred Pinczuk says:

Matt, you forget to add one matrix. And that is the energy cost for end of life. I am sure its not zero, and also certain is not 98% of the panel life-generation either. But its a number that should be covered.

Fred Pinczuk says:

I've never seen a solar panel dumped at a curb trash pick up!

Fred Pinczuk says:

1:57 Man that upward trend on solar install really slows and retracts after 2016? What happened? Same at 2:55?? Why would it dip down? I thought pricing was dropping, what is the root cause? I get 2020 and the Covid19 global issue. But 2017 through 2019 is going down?

KlaxonCow says:

Regarding the energy cost in the manufacture of solar panels, there is, of course, the possibility of using solar panels themselves to generate the energy for producing more solar panels.

That is, to "bootstrap" solar production.

The solar panel factory produces solar panels. So you can take the panels that the factory produces and then place them on the factory's roof (or, well, it depends how big the factory roof is – more generally, you can use the solar panels to build a "solar farm" that feeds the factory with energy – but if you've got a big roof then it makes sense to stick them up there, as then you're not using up any land and what else does your roof do, besides keeping the rain out? "It's free real estate", you might say).

Though the initial panels will use fossil fuel energy to be manufactured, once you have the solar panels made, you can use those panels to obtain the future energy required instead. Therefore, all future panel production, from that point, has no carbon impact in terms of energy usage.

This not only makes sense from the standpoint of the environment, it makes sense from the standpoint of the manufacturer – they're producing the very product that they need to fuel their production process.

If they need to replace panels or require more energy for expansion of production, then they simply take the very panels they're producing and use them themselves. Implicitly, it's cost price to do so – and, of course, the energy itself is free from the Sun. And it means that they are self-sufficient for their own energy needs (and perfectly unaffected by how the prices of fossil fuels fluctuates to world events).

This makes abundant economic and business sense to the solar panel manufacturer to simply use their own product to fuel future production. To "bootstrap" solar production onto solar power itself.

And, indeed, as they improve their own solar products, they themselves can gain the benefit. Literally take the more efficient panel from the factory to the "solar farm" outside. Which very much encourages them to innovate and improve – it can help increase profit margins. And they're implicitly testing their own product – and can learn what's good and bad about them in real world use – because they themselves use their own product.

So, if one takes the "bootstrap" approach, then the energy cost figures you're giving should be seen as a one-time cost to get the bootstrapping up and running, but then, once it's in place, the energy costs – both environmental and, well, simply economic – go right down from then on. That those numbers are an initial fossil fuel cost to get the process started – because, until we produce the alternatives, energy has to come from the available infrastructure, which is fossil-fuel-based – and you don't see that "worst case" going forward. Only initially, when you're kicking off the process of "bootstrapping solar".

Keith Menges says:

It's hard to argue with solar as an energy conversion technology. Cradle-to-grave pricing and energy efficiency are pretty attractive. But it really isn't about the conversion technology per se. It is about intermittency. In the most fundamental sense, in a perfect scenario, if we were to switch to 100% solar worldwide, we would need to install twice the worldwide energy consumption in solar generation capacity and be able to store or distribute at least half of that. I don't make the rules. Math and astrophysics do. I just know we need to follow those rules. So before we stick enough solar capacity onto the planet to melt every high power transmission line we have, we better figure out what to do with all that energy and how to effectively distribute it.

seattlevkk says:

Tesla’s numbers aren’t accurate. It’s still around 3$. I’m just going to install mine and I’m not seeing 1.5$ before or after credits. The reviews for Tesla are horrible – amongst the worst in the industry. I admire Tesla and what they are doing with EVs but they are not focusing on Solar the same way.

Maykho Olivares says:

Hey Matt, what's up? love the channel, your critical thinking is always entertaining, greetings from the Dominican Republic.

Keep it up!

Senthil Kumar N says:

Good one you've answered the question that was on my mind for some time now.. Thank you 🙂

Allan Timko says:

For grid tied solar PV, do your homework on the local utility metering tariff. devil is in the details & not all State Law & Utility rules are created equal.

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