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Cheap vs. Expensive Solar Panels

German or Chinese?

Germany can likely be called the leader when it comes to using solar energy on a national scale. And especially in the wake of the Fukuishima Daiichi disaster, Germany has pushed forward further in the rollout of solar energy, and the un-rolling of nuclear.

And so it's not surprising that the solar panels from Europe are very well engineered. And they have to be - the Northern hemisphere tends to have a lot less sun and worse weather compared with much of the world.

But in the same way, these highly-engineered panels are very expensive, sometimes prohibitively. In South Africa, solar panels sold to the public sit at about R25/Watt. And higher - a lot higher.

Because Southern Africa has a much greater amount of sunshine, the difference between all the differernt makes of polycrystalline solar panels becomes very fine, and basically, the first solar panel to pay itself off will be the cheapest one.


For polycrystalline solar panels, most of the world's manufacturers offer guarantees of 90% of original efficiency for the first 10 years, and 80% for the second. But in reality, polycrystalline solar panels are expected to last for much longer - up to 40 years.

Some of the first generation of solar panels made from silicon are still functioning even today.

Is it Really Clean?

But solar panels contain poisons like arsenic - and they probably do more harm than help for the environment

No! This is a myth - the production and use of solar panels DOES have a great impact on reducing our carbon emmissions, and we have hardly even started on truly using solar power in the world. Broducing the silicon for panels is a relatively low-temperature process, and therefore a low electricity process. Panels are very recyclable too - factories that produce solar modules in the first place are the best equipped to take back and recycle old solar panels. They have every reason to do so.

This all said, and yet there is one factor of solar panel manufacture that reduces the benefit of solar power - aluminium frames require a huge amount of electricity to produce.

Even so, a solar panel can pay for it's carbon footprint within 2 - 4 years. Not bad. Add on another 30 years of power output, and solar panels really can start saving the planet.