If you have ever worked in the solar industry you will know the importance of solar energy to the world at large. Solar energy is inexpensive to maintain, and it aids in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, what a lot of experts in the industry have failed to understand is that solar modules have some advantages and disadvantages when they are no longer useful.
The United States deployed 53GW solar capacity so far this year. Now, let’s say 250W was the average wattage of every installed solar module, the overall weight of panels deployed is equivalent to 44.5 million tons. To put it in perspective, that is equal to the weight of the Empire State Building times 22.
Being an industry that takes pride in its sustainability, there needs to be a concentration on recycling its panels after a solar project, so that our landfills don’t become saturated with them. The recycling of solar panels, as of now in the United States, is not a problem due to the fact that a many of the installations have been carried out in the past decade; however, the market for more places to recycle will only increase with time in the near future. According to a research by IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), materials that can be recycled are expected to hit $15 billion by 2050.
How are they currently recycling?
The question being asked is if “solar modules are currently being recycled?” The quick and short answer to this question is, YES. Silicon solar modules basically consist of aluminum, glass and plastic, which are the three materials recyclable in large quantities.
The process involved for these materials to be recycled is not an easy one, and require the use of highly sophisticated machinery. The procedures for a silicon module to be recycled include:
- eliminating the frame of the aluminum
- separation of the glass with a conveyor belt
- the processing of thermal at no less than 500 degrees Celsius
- and finally, the etching away of silicon wafers and the smelting of slabs which can be used again.
Due to the fact that PV capacities were installed in the 1990s by a lot of European Nations, the recycling market of a solar module PV is booming gradually. The PV Cycle was built by the European Union’s WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) to structure a great recycling system.
This is why the United States has a lot to learn when it comes to the recycling of PV module form the European nations. Although last year, Washington turned out to be the first state to scale through solar product stewardship law, there is a need for other states to join this movement in order put enough pressure on producers to come up with recycling programs.
This process will not be as hard to implement as the life span of a solar panel is beyond 24 years. However, the success of the solar industry depends on how we get the raw materials needed for producing solar modules. If we aim at making our solar firm move to the next level in the coming years, now is the time to start thinking of ways to make sure modules stay out of landfills throughout our beautiful country.