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Industrial energy costs are $1 per million BTU (MMBTU) or 300kWh, or $3*10^-6 per watt hour (Wh).

http://www.eia.gov/consumption/manufacturing/

Solar has 1 kg of 9n silicon per 100W, at $20/kg. Since raw material prices are mainly energy costs, this is:

($20/kg)/($3e-6/Wh) = 6MWh/kg

Kg per watt solar is:

1kg/100W = 0.01kg/W

That means energy use to build a watt of capacity is:

0.01kg/W * 6MWh/kg = 0.06 mwh = 60kWh

Let's say a 1 watt cell operates for 20 years:

8760*1W*20=180 kWh

At 20% capacity this is:

0.2 * 180kWh = 36kWh

Is this correct?

This is a specific new question and not a dupe of the above.

marked as duplicate by EnergyNumbers May 26 '16 at 5:26

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    "Raw material costs are mainly energy costs" is probably an excessive assumption - do you have a citation for that (specifically for silicon)? Where do your other assumptions come from (e.g. 20% capacity, industrial energy costs)? – Chris H May 25 '16 at 9:45
  • The other assumptions are based on what I've seen on this site. Feel free to refute them. Raw material costs reflecting energy costs is a widely used assumption eg wsj.com/articles/copper-prices-slide-on-oil-dip-1461581413 – D J Sims May 25 '16 at 10:12
  • I would welcome other sources if they disprove my assumptions – D J Sims May 25 '16 at 10:14
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    Your figure of 8760 seems to be made up of 24hrs times 365 days. The sun doesn't shine 24hrs/day so I think you want something like 10 times 365. The effective number of hours will vary depending on the location, the weather, and whether the panel tracks the sun. Or was the 20% capacity supposed to cover that difference? – Highly Irregular May 25 '16 at 10:48
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    better duplicate (closed as dupe of same target, but has PV specific answer sustainability.stackexchange.com/questions/2968/… – Kate Gregory May 26 '16 at 15:22
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Yes, PV is viable.

That's why somewhere around a billion solar panels have been connected to the grid - about 200 GW of capacity, with another 50 GW or so coming online in 2016.

I'm afraid that the costs you have are quite wrong.

Remember, PV generates electricity - that's a higher-quality (high exergy) energy than heat from gas. To get electricity from gas, you get about half the energy out that you put in, and you'll need to buy and manage a power plant.

And most of gas's costs are hidden - there's the externality of pollution.

Total electricity costs from fossil fuels are around us$100-300 / MWh, depending on where you put the marginal social cost of carbon - (somewhere between $100-200 / tCO2e)

Whereas total electricity costs from PV are around us$30-120 / MWh and trending downwards.

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    While I'm personally pro solar, the argument that it's viable because lots of it has been installed doesn't really hold water, since government subsidies are in many cases the largest motivator for installing solar. – LShaver May 25 '16 at 22:01
  • I am asking about energy costs not monetary costs. Monetary costs are only used in the absence of data for silicon manufacturing energy use – D J Sims May 25 '16 at 23:01
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    @NeilTyson yes, it really does - the answer there completely answers your question here. Your question is whether there's more energy out than in. The other question completely answers that. Your calculations are based on incorrect assumptions, and comments have already pointed that out. If you want to have an open discussion about the numbers, please do so in Sustainable Living Chat, not in comments. – EnergyNumbers May 26 '16 at 8:07
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    @NeilTyson if you'd like to see better answers there, then please do consider putting a bounty on that question. – EnergyNumbers May 26 '16 at 12:52
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    @LShaver The argument wasn't that solar is viable because there are lots of panels installed. Rather that lots of panels are installed because it's viable. (Implications are reversed.) – Earthliŋ May 28 '16 at 5:51

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