That old saw is long out of date. Modern panels make back many times the energy that went into their construction.
Furthermore, it was ALWAYS bogus, for several reasons:
The first is that the energy to make them is mostly heat, to smelt metal, melt glass, and the like. That "low quality" heat energy is the wrong side of the carnot cycle losses from "high quality" electrical power, ready for use driving motors, running electronics, and so on, that a panel delivers (or after a small amount of very efficient conversion). No one in their right mind would use solar-panel generated electricity for this bulk of the energy consumption of solar panel manufacture. (If they wanted to use only solar energy to make photovoltaic panels they'd use solar concentrators and the like, collecting five times the energy, in ready-to-use form.)
A second is that it is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Solar panels aren't really about generating power. They're about DELIVERING power, ready to use (or store locally for dark periods), to a location. You have to compare building them to installing and operating an electrical grid: Smelting metal for generators, transformers, and wires and glass for insulators, cutting down trees for poles and rights-of-way, vehicle fuel for the workers who install the lines and build the plants, etc. (Just the transformer and switchgear feeding your house probably took far more energy to make than a solar panel system.) Then there's the fuel used to power the grid: Since running a prime mover like a steam plant, generation, and transmission is far from 100% efficient, even if building the grid took no energy at all it would STILL deliver far less energy than it cost to generate. Does that mean we should shut it down?
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"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."
That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.
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