Photovoltaic Systems – The Go-To Solution for our Current Energy Paradigm

Peak Oil is closely intertwined with the future of renewable energies.

Renewable energies and nuclear power are the only commercially conceivable alternatives to fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. 

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Peak oil production is likely to have been reached around 2007, at least as far as conventional oil reserves are concerned. This means that the oil reserves discovered in the future will not be as economically attractive as those we have found in the past and will probably be much smaller.

Most of these reserves will be unconventional oil reserves, which will probably be more difficult to extract. The higher production costs and the cumbersome processing of crude oil result in a lower ratio of energy return to energy investment. However, the energy needed to extract the oil is the real reason to look for long-term alternatives.

Solar energy offers an alternative to fossil fuels. However, it is unlikely that we will rely solely on solar and wind energy.  It is likely that we will at least supplement these energy sources with hydropower and geothermal energy – and more likely with nuclear power. 

1. The use of photovoltaic modules and solar systems depends on the energy return

An important question of our time is how we can satisfy people’s hunger for cheap, environmentally friendly and easily available energy. As the twilight of fossil fuels is rapidly approaching, humanity must find alternatives to the current energy paradigm. The most readily available alternative for a future energy supply is solar energy – on a global scale. The reason for this is the constant availability of solar energy as a primary energy source. Photovoltaics has a high energy return energy investment ratio.

Whether photovoltaics makes sense or not depends on many factors, including the location of the solar plants and the energy conversion rate. However, we must also include maintenance and other operating costs in our EROI calculation. For example, the energy costs for transport to the factory, installation and cleaning of the solar modules are not deducted from the energy return. Nevertheless, they are essential cost components. In addition, cleaning the solar collectors costs a lot of energy and reduces the EROI. Therefore, photovoltaics looks better than it actually is in terms of energy investment.

It is important to keep in mind that solar collectors have a limited life span. The energy yield cannot be maintained over the lifetime of the solar system. The energy density is another important point to consider.

2. Future prospects of photovoltaic installations

We are still of the opinion that photovoltaic systems are good investments. However, they are only an option for the individual investor if they are accompanied by subsidies and levies on fossil fuels in the medium term. If you intend to switch to renewable energies, this is not possible without subsidies, as fossil fuels will always have a higher EROI.

Of course, this depends on your point of view and your investment perspective. The statement that solar energy will not be competitive with other energy sources because of the EROI also means that it will not be able to survive in the short to medium term without subsidies. This in turn means that considerable investments in solar research must be made.

In our humble opinion, the EROI of photovoltaic energy systems will not be able to compensate for the shortage and reduction of available fossil fuels in the coming years. We also expect global demand for fossil fuels to increase. Peak oil will hit society hard. It will affect us all on the cost side. We will not be able to procure sufficient energy as we did in the past. But photovoltaics will definitely contribute to smoothing out the energy transition.

Otherwise, we can imagine a mixture of nuclear power and renewable energies as part of the future energy mix in the industrialized countries. The economic use of nuclear energy requires a different risk assessment, which should not only consider the energy return. 

Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!


This article is just meant to inform the reader of recent developments in the energy industry at large and to share knowledge and insights with a wider audience. The author does not put forth investment recommendations. This article should not be taken as investment advice and the author cannot be held to account for investments made. Further information is provided in the IMPRINT and PRIVACY POLICY, which you can click on or find at the top of this page in the menu bar. For readers from Germany, please refer to the Impressum and Datenschutzerklärung of this website.               

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