“Comparing Carbon Footprint: U.S. Steel vs Chinese Aluminum Solar Modules”

Hello, fellow solar enthusiasts! Today, I want to talk about a fascinating discovery that may change the way we look at solar panels for your home. It’s about the material used to make solar panels – traditional aluminum versus recycled steel – and how it greatly impacts the carbon emissions in the solar industry.

You may be aware that solar panels are beneficial to our environment because they produce electricity from sunlight with zero emissions. Nonetheless, the process of manufacturing and installing these solar panels is not emission-free. This is what the solar companies refer to as the “carbon backpack”- the total carbon emissions involved in the manufacturing and installation process of solar components.

In a groundbreaking study commissioned by a solar company, Origami Solar, it was found that solar panels made with recycled steel frames show a whopping 90.4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to traditional aluminum module frames sourced from China. That’s a huge difference which can have a significant impact on the overall carbon footprint of solar power.

Not all solar arrays for homes are created equal – their carbon backpack may vary depending on the materials used and the place of manufacture. According to the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance, using PV materials with a low carbon backpack can result in a decrease in the carbon footprint of up to 50% in the U.S and an impressive 70% in Europe.

The analysis conducted by Origami Solar incorporated multiple aspects including raw material production, manufacturing, and transportation. In addition to the 90.4% greenhouse gas reduction in the U.S, the steel frames came up with an even higher 94.7% carbon advantage in Germany.

In terms of actual numbers, the greenhouse gas footprint of the steel module frames made by Origami Solar for a 2 meter by 1-meter frame manufactured in the U.S is estimated to be just 9.25 kilograms. In comparison to the 920 megajoules (MJ) of energy used in a conventional virgin aluminum frame produced using an extrusion production process in China, Origami Solar’s steel frame requires only 71.8 MJ in the U.S and 62.2 MJ in Germany.

What does this mean exactly for homeowners who want to install solar panels for their homes? Well, it can translate to a reduction of 80kg of emissions per module or 200 metric tons of emissions per megawatt (MW). This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it also offers financial benefits as the cost of solar components has decreased while the price of aluminum framing has stayed relatively the same. This makes up about 25% of the overall cost of a module.

Origami Solar’s innovative approach to frame manufacturing was recognized in the 2022 U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize competition where it was awarded the grand prize. It is advocating for the use of locally sourced steel for producing module frames, which will help to circumnavigate supply chain constraints. The frames are 100% U.S-made and can aid solar modules to qualify for the domestic content bonus tax credit.

So, the next time you are researching solar panels for your home or talking to different solar companies, take a moment to consider the carbon backpack of the panels you choose. Not only could you be saving more in terms of cost, but you could also be significantly reducing your carbon footprint. It’s not just about the solar array for your home; it’s also about contributing to the health of our planet. Always remember – a solar future is a bright future!

Original Articlehttps://pv-magazine-usa.com/2024/03/12/u-s-steel-solar-module-frames-have-one-tenth-embodied-carbon-of-chinese-aluminum-alternatives/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *