The emissions-reduction benefits of solar power more than compensate for greenhouse gasses released during production, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed data from photovoltaic systems installed between 1976 to 2014, and determined that the “break-even” point came in 2011 using realistic performance measures, but by 2018 using the most conservative estimates.
Solar installations grew at a rate of 45% per year from 1975 to 2015, while simultaneously reducing the overall environmental impact. The study found that for every doubling of installed PV capacity, energy use decreased by 12-13% and greenhouse gas footprints by 17-24%, respectively, depending on the type of silicon used in the panels. Overall, the trends show reduced cost and emissions alongside rapid growth of PV capacity.
You can access the study here: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13728
You can read a news story on the study here: http://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2016/12/solar-panel-life-cycle-analysis/