A number of detailed studies on the energy requirements on the three types of photovoltaic (PV) materials, which make up the majority of the active solar market: single crystal, polycrystalline, and amorphous silicon were reviewed. It was found that modern PV cells based on these silicon technologies pay for themselves in terms of energy in a few years (1–5 years). They thus generate enough energy over their lifetimes to reproduce themselves many times (6–31 reproductions) depending on what type of material, balance of system, and the geographic location of the system. It was found that regardless of material, built-in PV systems are a superior ecological choice to centralized PV plants. Finally, the results indicate that efficiency plays a secondary role to embodied energy in the overall net energy production of modern solar cells.

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