How green is the manufacturing process for solar panels? According to a new study from Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, solar panels made in China and used in Europe have a carbon footprint that is about twice as high as solar panels made locally in Europe.
The study found that although shifting manufacturing to China might be economically attractive, “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”.
According to the study, a solar panel made in China would need to be used for 20 to 30 percent longer than a European made panel to produce energy to cancel out the energy used to make it.
The study did not include the energy cost to transport the solar panels to their final destination. Had this cost been included in the study, the gap would be magnified further.