From pv magazine USA
Silicon is the semiconductor material at the heart of most solar cells. Thanks to advancements in technology, solar is now powering the world with a lot less silicon.
Research by Fraunhofer ISE shows that in 2004, 16 grams of silicon were needed to produce a single watt of solar cells. By 2021, that number had shrunk to just over 2 grams. That year, when the world’s largest solar farm – at just over 5 MW – was switched on in Germany, it was using 150 W solar panels. At the time, just one of these modules would have included 2,400 grams of the processed material.
In 2021, Maxeon signed a deal under which 1.8 million of its Performance 5 UPP solar modules would serve as the powerhouse of the world’s eighth-largest solar facility – the Primergy Solar farm in Nevada. If we assume that this 545 W panel uses 2.2 grams of silicon per watt, we get 1,199 grams per module. That’s approximately 360% higher output per solar panel – using only half of the silicon.
Of course, we’re going to use massively more silicon in 2023 than we did in 2004. In 2004, we deployed 1,044 MW of solar power, using just over 16,000 t of silicon globally. Bloomberg reports that 268 GW of solar was deployed in 2022, which is about 250 times more capacity than what was deployed in 2004. At 2.2 grams per watt, the 268 GW used approximately 590,000 t of silicon, or 35 times more silicon than was used in 2004.
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This article was amended to change unit from kg to t in the following: In 2004, we deployed 1,044 MW of solar power, using just over 16,000 t of silicon globally. At 2.2 grams per watt, the 268 GW used approximately 590,000 t of silicon, or 35 times more silicon than was used in 2004.
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