Everything you need to know about the importance of solar panel recycling and what it means for you
The global energy industry has witnessed unprecedented levels of growth in the past decade. Recent events such as the Ukraine war have taught us the importance of having domestic and renewable sources of energy, instead of importing fossil-fuel-based energy from abroad. While renewable energy such as solar has several advantages, these advantages seem short-lived if there isn’t a proper waste and recycling management program to take care of end-of-life solar panels.
In this article, we will attempt to explore the importance, types, and benefits of recycling solar panels.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
- The exact life of a solar panel depends on a variety of factors such as the manufacturing process, technology employed, and the conditions in which the solar panel was used.
Most solar panels only last for 30 years after which they need to be replaced. When replacing solar panels it is essential to hire a solar panel recycling company for sustainable disposal.
- As solar panels age, their power capacity and efficiency decrease. In the first 12 years, the power capacity decreases by 20%, and then by another 25% when the solar panels become 25 years old.
The efficiency will decrease by eight percent during this time, and for some panels, it might do down by 20%. This decrease in output and efficiency results in significantly poor performance.
Solar Panel Recycling Regulations and Waste
- In the majority of countries, solar panel waste is still considered general waste. Very few countries have enacted regulations to classify solar panel waste as a special type of waste requiring a specific disposal and recycling process. In the EU, solar waste is defined as e-waste and comes under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.
While many countries have made it certain that solar panel manufacturers make sure their products conform to local recycling standards so that it becomes easier to recycle their products when they reach end-of-life. These standards include the prohibition of the use of certain elements and materials and the use of recycling information and labels on the products to help the customers.
- It is estimated that by 2050, 60 million tons of solar panel waste will be lying in landfills across the world. If solar panel recycling is not made a norm, this number will most likely increase and cause a huge burden to the environment.
Types of Solar Panel Recycling
- There is a common myth surrounding solar panels, that they cannot be recycled. Several governments around the world have implemented several information campaigns to make the public aware of solar panel recycling. In most cases, solar panel recycling leads to a 96% efficiency, which means that 96% of the components used in a solar panel can be recycled.
Depending on the type of solar panel, solar panel recycling can be done in one of two ways:
Silicon-Based Solar Panel Recycling
- In this method, the solar panel is first disassembled separating the glass, aluminum, and electrical components. As much as 95% of the glass panel is recycled, while the aluminum frame and certain components are remolded for their next purpose.
Everything else is then heated at 500 Celsius in a special oven. It helps to remove the binding between the cell’s elements, thus separating the silicon cells. These silicons are etched away using acid. Broken wafers are melted to be used as raw material for new silicon modules. Overall, this method ensures 85% recycling efficiency.
Thin-Film Based Solar Panel Recycling
- In this method, the panels are put through a shredder and then hammered using a hammermill ensuring no particle is more than 4-5mm in size. This process results in a combination of liquid and solid materials. A rotating screw is used to separate the solids from the liquids.
The liquids and dewatered and evaporated to achieve purity. They then go through metal processing, which helps to separate different semiconductor materials. This method ensures 95% recycling efficiency.
- Glass is separated from the contaminated solid materials by passing them through a vibrator. The glass is cleaned and reused to make new solar panels.
We at PV2 Recycle are one of the best solar panel recycling specialists. If you are interested in having your old solar panels recycled, then get in touch with us today. Contact us today at email@example.com and learn more about how you can play your part in protecting the environment.