Are Solar Panels Sustainable?

Are Solar Panels Sustainable?

We all know that solar energy is good for the environment, but how good is it? Are solar panels 100% sustainable? In this article, the energy management experts at Boxfish explain the sustainability behind solar energy, how efficient it is and how many panels are needed to really make a difference.

So, are solar panels sustainable? Solar panels are very sustainable; they are a renewable energy source that releases minimal emissions into the environment which can be offset with just 3 years of use. What’s more, solar panels reduce your reliance on traditional energy sources from the grid, further reducing your carbon footprint.

Read on to learn more about the sustainability of solar power with the energy management experts at Boxfish.

Are Solar Panels 100% Sustainable?

On the surface, solar panels are 100% sustainable. They are classed as a renewable energy source that doesn’t negatively impact the environment. If we only take into account their usage, solar panels are 100% sustainable, however, if manufacturing, materials, land use and transport is accounted for, some carbon is emitted during the process.

This works out at around 14-73g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilo-watt hour (kWh). To the untrained eye this may seem like a lot but in reality this is far less than the average emissions of burning oil – 742g of CO2e per kWh.

What’s more, these emissions released during manufacturing and transportation etc. can be offset in just 3 years of use. Throughout the life of solar panels (20-25 years), businesses could even become carbon negative. 

How are Solar Panels Sustainable?

Solar power is renewable and releases zero emissions. In fact, in just one year of use the average homeowner can reduce their carbon footprint by 80% by using solar power. What’s more, use of solar panels cuts down the amount of traditional energy sourced from the grid. They also tend to last a long time (around 20-25 years) with minimal maintenance required, cutting down on waste. 

How Many Solar Panels are Needed to be Net Zero?

How many solar panels you need to be net zero depends on a couple of factors:

  • how much energy you currently use (kWh);
  • daily sunlight hours for your location, presence of shading/obstructions, etc.
  • the type of panels used and the available area
  • whether you are looking to offset internal demand or generate income by exporting to the grid

From this data, you can work out what the output will be with a high degree of accuracy and from there you can calculate the carbon savings and whether the installation would assist you on your journey to achieving net-zero. 

What is the Carbon Footprint of Photovoltaic Energy?

On average, the carbon footprint of photovoltaic energy (solar panels) is around 14-73 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilowatt-hour (kWh). 

How Efficient are Solar Panels in the UK?

In the UK, most domestic solar panel systems are around 10-20% efficient. Some systems may reach up to 25% efficiency. This means that UK solar panels are 10-20% efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. It might not sound like a lot but this can easily reduce reliance on traditional energy sources, minimise your carbon emissions and  reduce your overall energy spend. 

How Much CO2 can Solar Panels Save? 

When it comes to direct emissions, using solar panels to generate electricity is much more environmentally friendly than fossil based alternatives. The exact values will vary but typically, solar panels will eliminate emissions of around 200 grams of CO2e for every kilowatt hour produced.

Energy Management with Boxfish

At Boxfish, our energy management experts are on hand to help you take your first steps in reducing your business’ carbon footprint, whether you’re interested in solar power, other renewables, or are working towards net zero. Give our expert team a shout and we’ll take it from there – use the contact form below or give us a call on 0141 226 8525.


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