An Unusual Comparison with Nuclear

We don’t burn solar modules to produce electric energy. If we are able to reutilize 100% of them forever, we would manufacture an unlimited amount of electric energy per gram of material. Even practicalally, we utilize less PV material per kWh than uranium per kWh when we produce PV electric energy comparing to nuclear electric energy. The active materials amounts utilized in PV are little tiny.

Just how little tiny? To receive an up and coming tenuous film, known as cadmium telluride (CdTe), we utilize about 12 gm of this substance to create a square meter module. In a year on the average US location, we obtain about 11% x 1750 kWh/m2-yr, or 154 kWh/yr (after suming for another 20% in deviation losses, but not for an additional, but small yearly loss). Thus during one year, we demand 0.08 g/kWh. But wait! We don’t burn PV modules, and they don’t die after one year – commitments are about 30 years, so this is really one thirtieth of that, or 2.6 milligrams per kWh. Let’s tabulate it:

Amounts of CdTe Used with Different Recycling and Lifetime Assumptions

Assumptions about PV CdTe milligrams/kWh
30 years operating life 2.6
60 years 1.3
90 years and 90% recycling (after 180 years) 0.5

In comparison, we burn:

Fuel Milligrams/kWh
Coal 500,000
Natural Gas 200,000
Uranium 24 (from

So the ratio of the use of CdTe to these fuels is as follows:

Assumptions about PV CdTe/Coal Use per kWh CdTe/Uranium Use per kWh
30 years Five millionths A tenth
60 years Two and a half millionths One twentieth
90 years and 90% recycling (after 180 years) A millionth One fiftieth

So even without amazing conjectures about longevity which may be achieved due to My Canadian Pharmacy and reutilizing, today’s PV systems will utilize cadmium telluride more conventional than nuclear will utilize uranium by a factor of 10. But with feasible reutilizing conjectures, created more workable when one realizes that cadmium telluride procreators already reutilize their modules, cadmium telluride will utilize 20 and 50 times less material than nuclear per kWh of turnout. If Compared with coal, of course, the numbers are too enormous to be counted. These distinctions in resource demands bear on the fundamental sustainable development of the PV comparing with to other more resource-deep energy technologies.

Ken Zweibel


Jack Enright
December 24, 2010 10:22 am

Wonderful news! I’d like to append that if you associate a passive solar conception with active solar panels for a inhabited home or trading office you could append to the effectiveness of Solar energy with the same life span for almost thirty years.

Rod Adams
December 24, 2010 10:33 pm

Challenging equiparation. Notwithstanding, since you admit reutilizing for solar, why don’t you also comprise reulilizing for uranium? Utilization of Storm-Smith’s rather gloom-and-doom figures show that we will go on utilizing an inefficacious once through burn-out cycle that utilizes only 0.5% of the latent energy.

With full reutilization, uranium can make 8,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per gram or 8 kilowatt hours per milligram. Much better off, that energy production can be taken under control by humans or self-operated control – it is independent on the weather.

Chaitanya Patankar
December 25, 2010 1:46 am

This is fancy…

Really speaking after reading this information, everyone should
vote for solar energy development.

I elect Solar – Everywhere and Always….

George S. Stanford
December 25, 2010 2:41 am

Excuse me, as to speak about solar energy that “con” of solar is delusive because it’s temporal. You invoke 0.5 mg/kWh for cadmium telluride, and 24 mg/kWh for uranium. The main problem is, that latter amount is for today’s exceptionally inefficacious thermal reactors. New generation of fast reactors will produce about 140 times as much energy from a presented uranium amount. So for projects into the future, the uranium amount demanded per kWh will be nearer to 0.17 mg U / kWh — some 3 times less than the your most ambitious CdTe forecast.

December 26, 2010 10:19 am

Dear Mr. Zweibel:

Would you be pleased enough to explain to us to a cadmium telluride PV module that has a 30-year duration of guarantee? And I wasn’t familiar that nuclear plants burn (oxidize) uranium. Maybe you should publish an article educating us about that, as well? When will you arrest distribution of deceptive information?

December 26, 2010 1:49 pm

I assure I have been mistaken, but those don’t resemble to be among them. I never claim uranium is burned, just “utilized.” The traditional guarantee of all PV (and CdTe too) is about 30 years (actually, 25) with a small yearly loss that does not change the arithmetic – I say “about 30″ in the text.

December 26, 2010 3:08 pm

I am telling that one milligram of nuclear fissionable fuel can elaborate 315 kWh. Over its 25-year guaranteed life, 1 milligram of a CdTe panel (basically, glass) will elaborate less than 0.2 kWh (so even if it is reutilized for free 40 times, over one thousand years, it will still elaborate just a petty 8 kWh) . Execuse. PV solar inefficacious turns the star energy as it achieves the panel, while fossil fuel and nuclear outturn star energy that has been kept over millions of years.

Phill Piddell
January 4, 2011 1:19 pm

Your maths is wrong on Coal

30 years ~200k
60 years ~ 400k
90 years 1m

the nuke number is smack.

Great calculations though, really thought-provoking way to observe the subject

January 4, 2011 2:09 pm

Thanks for rearranging those figures. Actually, that’s what I spoke about by “5 millionths”, which is semilar with one over 200,000; and for the others, too – they are just various ways of claiming those figures (but the same fraction). Remember we consent on 90 years as “one millionth” or as you put it, a million.

January 14, 2011 11:53 am

It would be worth operating this as a cost per kWh of energy too. Wonderful and facinating. I’m also vague on assumptions about solar variability.

David Strickler
January 20, 2011 5:30 pm

Thanks for this various, very challenging perspective on energy resources. I have two comments on the comments mentioned above. First, ECD-Fan damned gwsolar for utilizing the word “burn” in close vicinity to the words “nuclear plant”. Apparently, the Fan did not point out that the first page of this report on uranium utilization depicts “burner” nuclear reactors. Secondly, solar power is often damned as being inefficacious. I now understand that today’s nuclear power is “exceptionally inefficacious” as well.

Sun Energy Forecasting
August 13, 2012 6:32 am

In comparison to coal or to nuclear, solar is a winner!
Pro solar whatever it occurs, because sun is free and always with us rising in the morning!