PV Module Recycling: Impact on Environment and Economy

The average lifecycle of a solar panel is up to 25-30 years. This phenomenal steep rise is expected to generate up to 15% e-waste. Research on solar wastes emphasizes PV module recycling on the verge of mounting landfills and the risk of hazardous contamination.

What are the implications of recycling old and outdated solar panels for the country?

From dependence on traditional power resources to large-scale mining, recycling e-waste addresses diverse issues. Hence, the evolving secondary market for manufacturing solar panels from recycled materials brings in pools of opportunities. 

The first generation of solar panels (installed in the 90s and 2000) has already attained end-of-life during the past decade. Lack of infrastructure and awareness is one of the aspects 90% of the panels are discarded in landfills in the UK.

On the verge of rising concerns, we delve into the environmental, social, and economic significance of recycling decommissioned PV systems.

Solar Waste Management for Reducing Environmental Impact 

There is little to no scope for repairing or refurbishing retired solar panels after 20-30 years of continued usage. Recycling is by far the ultimate solution for effective solar waste management. 

Precious metals, including silver, aluminium, lead, copper, and silicon, are extracted from natural resources, especially mines. Besides the high-end costs involved, mining is one of the factors for environmental degradation. 

The net volume of global solar panel waste is estimated to reach 43,000–250,000 metric tonnes within the next few years. This widens the scope of recovering the metals in large quantities while discarding the need for extensive mining.  

Fortunately, 100% of the metals in dismantled solar panels can be extracted for future production of new panels.

What are the Social Aspects of PV Module Recycling

Incorporating cost-effective and safe recycling measures within the value chain is crucial for financial prospects. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Report - 2017, the cumulative global solar waste is estimated to surpass 70 million tonnes by 2050. 

At the end of life, solar waste management offers enormous employment possibilities in private and public sectors. IRENA’s findings also reveal that PV energy resources require a larger workforce compared to power sourcing from traditional fossil fuel technologies. Raising the production of solar panels by 25% by 2025 can boost job prospects by three times compared to labour employed in the fossil fuel energy sector.

Solar Panel Recycling is Rewarding for Economic Growth

Recycling is an affordable technology-driven measure for obtaining valuable materials for manufacturing new photovoltaic systems. Effective recycling system and resource circulation supports clean energy production for future generations. 

The circular economy thriving on renewable energy reduces the dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover, it offers possibilities for domestic production of new panels in the UK. This is significant for the cost reduction of importing solar PV modules (worth millions of pounds) from China, the United States, and Vietnam.

Financial Prospects of Recycling Solar Wastes

According to the estimation by IRENA, recycled solar materials recovered until 2023 are worth $15 billion. The amount is sufficient for funding the production of 2 billion new PV systems. 

Recovering the raw materials from these wastes by 2030 is valued at $450 million, good enough to produce 60 million new panels.

Final Thoughts, 

Recycling is an inevitable solution to recover up to 95% of components from dismantled solar wastes. Recouping a high percentage of reusable material is possible by implementing advanced PV module recycling methods. The recovered valuable assets can be reused for low-cost solar panel manufacturing without compromising the quality. 

Do you have any questions about PV panel recycling?

Contact customer support at Evolution Solar Recycling. Our certified solar panel recyclers address 99% of queries within 24 hours. 

Should you need our help removing defunct solar panels from your site, we can help. Once we receive a call, our representative will schedule an appointment for the job. We issue recycling certification after the removal.

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