Plants vs Solar Panels: Which is better at capturing solar energy? | We The Curious

Photosynthesis or photovoltaics? Leaves or solar panels? Which is better at capturing the energy from sunlight? Heather and Beth of the Live Science Team investigate the similarities and differences between these two processes, both powered by the Sun.

Find out more about the making of the Energy Tree:

This video was presented by: Heather Nichol and Beth Cotterell, Live Science Team.
Produced by: Ross Exton, Live Science Video Producer


We The Curious is an idea and a place for everyone. We’re all about asking questions, being playful and testing things out. An educational charity that removes boundaries around science – connecting art, people, everything, in a united culture of curiosity.

Music: Provided courtesy of YouTube Audio Library


  1. Excellent video 📸 while solar panels cost 1000s dollars, Plants cost next to nothing

  2. This is a great video, thanks for making it!

    The comparison is unfair though because the plants capture and store the energy, and the solar panels are only doing half of that job. It would be more fair to compare the plants to solar + battery storage.

    A lot of people in the comments are arguing a false dichotomy that we need to choose between solar or plants. There is a meme for this — Why can't we have both?!

  3. Only solar panels will not give you oxygen or food or wood or shade or give shelter to wildlife or…doesn't matter..

  4. So we need to cut down the rain forest and install solar farms. You heard it here folks, solar panels are WAAAAAY better than trees.

  5. That 's the combination of nature with tech and result or product is solar for producing energy for anyone over the world (sun is our substance and also solar, too.)
    Enough to pursue the nature to live in happiness and feel all great points in the world.
    I wrote that to express my ideas after your this episode.
    THNK YOU::::

  6. Great video!! Love the comparison between leaves and solar panels! Amazing – straightforward but detailed, well scripted!! I also think it's great you have solar panels on your roof! :)R

  7. Plants may only convert 3% vs 10% of a solar panel but over the long term plants can absorb more. A solar panels life is 10-20 years (if lucky), however trees can live hundreds to thousands of years.

    Will be exciting when solar panels can convert more than 10% and when they can work on passive light (eg inside the house)

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