Can we sell solar power we generate back to the Grid?

07 March 2010


Can we sell the solar power we generate back to the Grid? In countries like Germany and Australia do you get paid decent rates for the power you generate?


We posed this question to Niraj Lal from the University of Cambridge...

I think the economics of it comes down to which country you're in. I think in Germany a while ago they had a feed-in tarrif, so that means for every bit of energy that you make, that you're not using, you can sell back to the grid at a really high price, a lot higher than what you buy it back at. So in Germany and in certain places in Australia, it becomes cost-effective to have solar cells in your roof.

I think if you just buy a solar cell off the shelf and put it on your roof in Australia, the payback time is maybe about 10 to 15 years. But with government subsidies and government programs and you can reduce that to about 8 to 4 years when it starts to become not a bad investment for a household.

A lot of cells are also made from silicon and that's a pretty energy intensive thing to make. I think for a standard silicon solar cell panel, it's about 4 years that it takes of making energy in a really nice sunny place to just pay back all the energy that it took to make the solar panel in the first place. But after 4 years, it starts giving you back in carbon terms and the life of the silicon solar panel is about 25 years plus more. And so, I think it does start to make sense in certain areas in the world with government help to start off this role.

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