In 2011, solar power reached a tipping point.

The scientists found that, from 1975 up to 2011, solar panels were actually a source of greenhouse gases globally. The emissions avoided by existing solar panels were insufficient to offset the amount of emissions being produced by the rapid production of new solar panels.

But in 2011, this flipped. Instead of being a net source of emissions, the solar industry started avoiding more emissions than it emitted, providing a net climate benefit.

These break-even points are for the solar power industry globally. At a regional level, this moment could have occurred sooner or later than 2011, as the first graph shows. In the EU, it could have taken place as early as 2009, whereas in China it could have been in 2012. These years are pushed back when solar panels are assumed to be less efficient.

Solar panels have been benefitting the climate ‘since 2011’