Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular, as people become more environmentally conscious.
Solar power was once a niche technology, used mainly by scientists and environmentalists who were concerned about the environment.
However, with the advent of more affordable solar technology, an increasing number of homeowners are making the switch to solar energy.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular for electricity generation in both residential and industrial areas.
However, what happens to solar panels when they reach the end of their life cycle?
About 8 million metric tons of decommissioned solar panels could accumulate globally by 2030. By 2050, that number could reach up to 80 million metric tons. It is a huge quantity of mass to be added to the landfill if proper actions are not taken.
Fear not – solar panel recycling exists to help conserve our natural resources and avoid landfills! As more people become aware of the benefits of solar panel recycling, it is likely that this practice will become more widespread.
Read on to learn more about how solar panel recycling helps conserve natural resources and how you can do your part!
What is the common structure of solar panels?
Solar energy is generated by converting sunlight into electrical power. Silicon is used in about 90% of commercial solar panels as the semiconductor that transforms light into power.
Solar panels are sandwiched together, with cells in the middle. Thin silver strips crisscross the surface of silicon crystals in each cell, moving electricity into the panel’s copper wiring. The solar cells are protected by a clear material called EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate).
On top of that, another layer of glass is applied, and the rear is covered with a different type of plastic, such as PET (Polyethylene terephalate).
The entire device is encased in an aluminum frame. The multilayer structure protects cells from the elements while letting sunlight pass through.
The difficulties of solar panel recycling
The solar industry is booming with the rise in solar energy usage. However, this also means that there is an increase in solar panel waste.
Solar panels are made up of a variety of materials, including glass, metals, and silicon, which makes them difficult to recycle.
In addition, solar panels often contain hazardous materials, such as lead and cadmium, which can be released into the environment if not handled properly.
So, when solar panels approach the end of their useful life, what you can do with them?
Some companies attempt to reuse or rehabilitate inefficient panels. Others may try to salvage some of the components. Reuse is the most straightforward and cost-effective method of “recycling” panels—it involves the least amount of processing and fetches the greatest price.
However, the most common method of recycling solar panels is crushing all the components – glass, silicon, metals – and turning them into a building material called a glass cullet. But the glass cullet does not attract many buyers due to its low profitability.
Metals are separated and they always have good value. The solar panel has silver, copper, and aluminum as well as some hazardous metals like lead and cadmium which have good market value, but difficulties exist with the cost-effectiveness of the extraction process.
While solar panel recycling is not yet widespread, it is a growing industry. The difficulties above will be minimized soon when more companies come forward to get involved in this business and do the research to overcome this and contribute to conserving natural resources.
The benefits of solar panel recycling
There are several reasons why solar panel recycling is beneficial:
- It helps to protect natural resources: Solar panels can be recycled to help save the materials needed to produce them, such as glass, silicon, and metals.
- It decreases greenhouse gas emissions: Solar panel manufacturing consumes a lot of energy and emits greenhouse gases. Solar panels can be recycled to help cut pollution.
- It saves money: Recycling solar panels save money by eliminating the need to mine new resources instead of using recycled ones.
New hope with new possibilities with solar panel recycling
We are solar power advocates that support solar recycling initiatives to keep solar panels out of landfills. If solar recycling fails and pollutes the environment, how can you identify it as a renewable energy source? Proper solar Recycling must be ensured which will eventually conserve our natural resources, helps create new jobs in the solar industry, and provides a renewable source of energy.
Solar Recycling programs have begun to emerge across the world especially in North America as the solar industry has rapidly increased over the last few years. These programs are designed to ensure that solar panels are properly disposed of at the end of their life and recycled into new solar products. Currently, there is no federal mandate for solar panel recycling around the world, but many states and utilities are beginning to adopt solar recycling policies and programs.
Veolia, a French company, has established a solar panel recycling unit called PV CYCLE France. This unit processes and recycles solar panels made of crystalline silicon (90 percent of the market). In 2018, this unit was able to recycle 1,800 tons of material – thanks to a process that is unique in France.
The process they use takes between one minute and one minute and 30 seconds per solar panel. With this solution, solar panels can be recycled efficiently and effectively.
ROSI Solar, another French company, is also working on solar panel recycling. In 2017, the company developed a new process to recycle solar panels made of amorphous silicon. They devised a technology to extract the silver, silicon, and other high-value components from discarded panels and allow for the recycling of solar panels with a higher efficiency rate.
You can help conserve natural resources by recycling your solar panels. Contact your local recycling center to see if they accept solar panels or check with companies like Veolia and ROSI Solar to see if they offer solar panel recycling services.
Solar panel recycling is an important process to keep in mind when discussing the future of renewable energy. While there are some difficulties associated with the recycling process, the benefits of solar panel recycling make it well worth the effort. With new possibilities for solar panel recycling on the horizon, we can be hopeful that this process will only become more efficient and environmentally friendly in the years to come. With the ever-growing popularity of solar energy, it’s more important than ever that we focus on solar panel recycling so that we can keep our planet healthy for future generations. What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to solar panel recycling?