A Solar Panel's Life after Death: 2023 Guide of SolarPanel Recycling

· PV Industry News,About Solar Panels

Content:

  1. Can Solar Panels be Recycled?
  2. When to Consider Recycling Solar Panels?
  3. Why Recycle Solar Panels?
  4. Recycling Value of Solar Panel Components
  5. Recycling Processes for Solar Panel Components
  6. Where can We Go to Recycle Solar Panels?

Can Solar Panels be Recycled?

Yes, solar panels can be recycled.

Recycling solar panels comes with several advantages and a few challenges. On the positive side, it helps conserve valuable resources, promotes environmental sustainability by reducing waste and the carbon footprint, opens up economic opportunities, and ensures compliance with environmental regulations where required. However, there are also some downsides, including the technical complexity of recycling, initial high costs, limited recycling infrastructure in some areas, and potential risks associated with handling hazardous materials. Overall, the benefits of solar panel recycling far outweigh the drawbacks, making it a crucial practice for a greener and more sustainable energy future.

Obsolete solar panels can be disassembled to extract various valuable materials, such as silicon, aluminum, silver, copper, and more, which can undergo secondary utilization for the production of new solar panels and electronic components. In terms of the composition of photovoltaic modules, the primary components typically include photovoltaic glass, aluminum frames, solar cells, EVA film, junction boxes, and a photovoltaic backsheet. The approximate weight distribution of each component is roughly as follows: glass accounts for about 70%, aluminum for 10%, adhesive sealing materials for 10%, silicon for 5%, and rare metals like silver, indium, gallium, and others make up approximately 1% of the total weight. When examining the composition of these solar panels, the majority of an obsolete solar panel can be effectively utilized as recyclable materials for remanufacturing. Furthermore, despite metals comprising a smaller proportion of the solar panel’s weight, they still hold significant recycling value. This article will detail the material recycling value of the various components of solar panels.

When to Consider Recycling Solar Panels?

Solar panel recycling should be considered when the panels reach the end of their useful life, are damaged beyond repair, or when upgrading to more efficient panels. In general, here are some instances when you should consider recycling solar panels:

End of Life: Solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25-30 years, after which their efficiency declines. At this point, recycling is a viable option.

Technical Failures: If your solar panels develop significant technical faults, such as extensive cell damage or electrical issues, recycling may be more practical than repairs.

Upgrades: When you decide to replace your existing solar panels with more advanced and efficient models, recycling ensures proper disposal of the old ones.

Storm Damage: After natural disasters or severe storms, damaged panels that cannot be restored should be recycled to minimize environmental impact.

Environmental Regulations: In some regions, there are regulations and requirements for proper solar panel disposal and recycling. Compliance with these regulations is essential.

Recycling solar panels in these scenarios is not only environmentally responsible but also helps recover valuable materials for use in new panels and reduces waste.

When to Consider Recycling Solar Panels

Why Recycle Solar Panels?

In the electronic waste market, the quantity and scale of discarded solar panels may currently be unimpressive, but their growth rate is the most rapid. The industry is concerned that as the global transition to green energy accelerates and deepens, and as solar energy applications become increasingly widespread, the management of a vast number of retired solar panels will become an unsustainable burden for the solar energy sector. Therefore, this topic of recycling solar panels is being thought and discussed by more and more people, and the recycling of solar panels has become a necessity to protect the environment. Recycling solar panels offers several significant benefits, aligning with environmental protection and potential cost savings:

Environmental Conservation: Recycling solar panels is an environmentally conscious practice that safeguards against landfill disposal, which could lead to environmental contamination. Additionally, recycling solar panels requires less energy compared to mining and refining raw materials. By using recycled materials, energy consumption in the production of solar panels is reduced, contributing to overall energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. In the long run, recycling can be more cost-effective than disposing of solar panels. As recycling technologies improve and demand for recycled materials increases, the economic benefits of recycling become more substantial.

Resource Recovery: Solar panels contain valuable materials, such as silicon, aluminum, silver, copper, and rare metals. Recycling these materials provides an economically viable source for manufacturing new panels and electronic components, saving on production costs. Recycling solar panels contributes to a circular economy where materials are continually reused and repurposed, creating a sustainable supply chain.

Generating Additional Income: Apart from the environmental and economic advantages, solar panel recycling can create opportunities for generating extra income. As the demand for clean energy grows, the recycling industry is set to expand. Entrepreneurs and individuals can explore the collection and recycling of end-of-life solar panels, contributing to the sustainable energy ecosystem while benefiting financially. This extra income stream can be a significant incentive for those considering solar panel recycling as a worthwhile venture.

Why Recycle Solar Panels

Recycling Value of Solar Panel Components

Solar panels, as a cornerstone of the renewable energy sector, possess a complex composition of materials, many of which offer a significantly high recyclable value. Monocrystalline solar panels are one of the most common types of solar panels available in the market today. Below is an analysis of the various parts of a monocrystalline silicon solar panel:

Silicon wafers:

Silicon wafers are the essence of solar panels, fabricated from either polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon. Their high purity allows for efficient recycling and subsequent utilization in the production of new solar panels, reducing dependence on limited silicon resources.

Percentage: About 5-10% of the module weight.

Value: Higher. The recycling value of silicon wafers depends on the market price of silicon, which usually ranges from a few dollars to a dozen dollars per kilogram.

Difficulty of recycling: Medium. Requires technology to separate the wafers from the EVA and further refine the silicon.

Frame ( Usually made of aluminium):

Solar panel frames are usually made of aluminium, whose mechanical loads and properties are perfectly suited to support and protect PV modules. After recycling, they can undergo the smelting process, leading to the manufacture of new aluminum products such as frames, mounts, or other aluminum components.

Percentage: About 5-10% of module weight.

Value: High. The recycling value of aluminium is typically in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per tonne.

Recycling difficulty: Low. Aluminium recycling technology is mature.

Glass:

Glass is a very important part of solar panels, it enables the collection of sunlight, directs the light to the cells to produce electricity and effectively protects the cells inside the solar panel from external physical damage. Single glass solar panels generally use fully tempered glass, while glass-glass solar panels use semi-tempered glass. Recycled glass can be remelted or reprocessed for the manufacture of new glass products, reducing reliance on primary glass resources.

Percentage: About 75-80% of the module weight.

Value: The recycling value of glass is relatively l