How Important is it to Recycle Solar PV Modules?

by Rani Das Student

There has been a phenomenal increase in the demand for solar PV modules over the past decade. Global solar installations recorded by the IEA in 2019 suggest a 12% increase from 2018, with significant growth across all continents. Overall, a total of 629 GW of solar was installed throughout the world by the end of 2019.*

All of the functional solar PV modules installed globally are currently able to cover about 3% of global electricity demand. While this may not seem substantial, it is certainly remarkable. We can even expect this increase to continue to claim a greater share, especially as India, China, and other developing nations are striving to achieve maximum solar capacity.

For all those who love the environment and serve the world ecologically, this may be a celebratory event but even solar PV modules need looking after. 

A lot of carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere, and this is one of the most extensive environmental issues of the day. Solar PV modules being installed today will reduce this, but will eventually end up increasing the amount of electronic waste on a grand scale in the future, which could also harm the environment - in a different way than CO2.

Solar PV modules contain heavy metals such as cadmium and lead which cuts out landfilling from the list of options to dispose of them. The above-mentioned metals can be released into the ecological system through landfilling leachate or open burning; they then contaminate soil, water, and air. This could result in the perpetual depletion of these substances in the future. The only possible solution to the issue is recycling. 

Recycling solar panels is not an easy task as the units are assembled from multiple, extremely different materials which include:

  • Glass which is used as the front cover of most PV panels

  • The frame which is made using aluminum 

  • Silicon solar cells

  • Metals such as lead, copper, gallium, and cadmium

Proper recycling of solar PV modules requires these dissimilar materials to be separated and recovered with minimal damage and loss of material. The materials can then be re-used to manufacture new panels, or for other industrial applications. 

For example,

  • Glass panels: Could be used in the manufacture of insulation

  • Silicon cells: Could be recovered and re-etched to be used again

Advanced technology required for the recycling of solar PV modules is currently available and is being used. The European solar panel recycling association, PV Cycle, has developed a process by which over 95 percent of a panel’s materials can be recovered. Manufacturers have developed programs to accept used panels which are later used for recycling.

Most manufacturers report that the vast majority of panels they process for recycling are ones that were damaged or defective. This situation is likely to change over the next few decades, considering that the majority of solar plants were set up in the last 10 years. There have been many other electronics disposal challenges, but none have been tackled with precision or any joint efforts between manufacturers, suppliers, consumers, and regulatory bodies. 

We hope you got the information you were looking for. Thanks for reading!


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About Rani Das Freshman   Student

5 connections, 0 recommendations, 22 honor points.
Joined APSense since, May 22nd, 2020, From Mumbai, India.

Created on May 25th 2020 23:53. Viewed 269 times.


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