How to recycle solar panels?

· About Solar Panels

Solar panels have been promoted around the world as an important tool for reducing carbon emissions, but they degrade and become less efficient over time. It is often more cost-effective to replace them after about 25-30 years.

According to experts, billions of panels will eventually need to be discarded and replaced.

How many solar panels need to be recycled?

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicted in 2016 that by the early 2030s, the number of retired photovoltaic panels worldwide would equal about 4% of the total number of panels installed. According to the agency, the amount of solar panel waste will increase to at least 5 million tonnes per year by the 2050s. The total global value of raw materials that could technically be recovered from PV panels could reach $450 million (in 2016 dollars), which is roughly equivalent to the cost of raw materials required to produce approximately 60 million new panels or 18 GW of generating capacity. According to the report, the total recoverable value could exceed $15 billion by 2050.

Energy experts are urging governments to take immediate action to avert a global environmental disaster.

"By 2050, this will be a mountain of garbage," says Ute Collier, deputy director of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), "unless we set up recycling chains now."

"We're making more and more solar panels, which is great, but what are we going to do with the waste?"

mass of new solar panels VS end-of-life solar panels

What materials are solar panels made of?

The solar panels are similar to sandwiches.

1. The solar cell is positioned in the centre. Silicon is used as a semiconductor in approximately 90% of commercial solar panels to convert light energy into electricity. Thin metal strips (usually silver) cross the surface of the silicon crystals in each cell, carrying current into the copper wiring of the panel.

2. The solar cell is encapsulated in a protective barrier, which is typically a transparent plastic encapsulating material known as EVA. Another layer of glass covers the top, and EVA covers the back as well. An aluminium frame surrounds the entire thing.

This layered structure protects the cells from natural elements while allowing sunlight to pass through, but it may be difficult to deconstruct when the panels' useful life is up.

What materials are solar panels made of?

Which solar panel components can be recycled?

Overview of Recycling:

1. Crystalline silicon solar technology, which consists of an aluminium frame, glass, copper wires, a polymer layer and backsheet, silicon solar cells, and a plastic junction box, accounts for the majority of the solar panel market share. The polymer layer protects the panel from the elements, but it can make recycling and panel removal difficult because it requires high temperatures to loosen the adhesive.

2. Many components are recyclable. Glass, polymers, the solar cell itself, copper, aluminium, and trace amounts of other metals are all found in a typical crystalline solar module. Glass accounts for 75% of the total weight, followed by polymers at 10% and aluminium at 8%. Silver, lead, and tin are present in trace amounts.

3. Other components of the solar cell may be more difficult to recycle. Although silver and internal copper are valuable components, they are typically found in very small amounts in panels. Solar panels may also contain toxic metals such as lead and cadmium.

4. Critical materials in solar panels include aluminium, tin, tellurium, and antimony, as well as gallium and indium in some thin-film modules.

5. Other solar power system components that can be recycled include inverters, racking, and battery backup systems. Inverters can be recycled alongside e-waste, while racks can be recycled alongside similar scrap metal.

Solar panel recycling procedure:

The stages of photovoltaic recycling are as follows: (1) stratification, (2) material separation, and (3) material extraction and purification. Solar panels are primarily recycled using chemical, thermal, and mechanical processes. The removal of junction boxes, wires, and frames is the first step in the process. After that, the modules are shredded, sorted, and separated. Material separation allows them to be directed to the appropriate recycling process for each material. The process described above is applicable to crystalline silicon panels.

Solar panel recycling procedure:

The methods described are just a few examples of many. Several other methods are currently being researched. The main issue or concern with the recycling process is the impurity level. Impurities can be produced by high-temperature heat treatments and mechanical processes, for example. Furthermore, low-temperature processes that use specific mechanical or chemical steps can produce impurities. As a result, the desired result can only be obtained by combining thermal, chemical, or metallurgical steps. Once these materials can be recycled without impurities, they will have a higher market value, which is currently one of the main challenges in the PV recycling industry.

What are the long-term advantages of solar panel recycling?

1. More solar panel recycling infrastructure will be established, which will effectively stimulate economic development. To manage the large number of solar panels that will be disposed of in the near future, a proper solar panel recycling infrastructure must be put in place. Once in place, the economy will experience a number of benefits and new opportunities.

2. Recycling solar panels will increase job creation and save raw materials. PV recycling will not only create more green jobs by 2050, but it will also have a recyclable value of around £11 billion. This means that reusing previously used materials could generate approximately 630 GW of energy.

3. Constantly reduced price. As the cost of solar energy continues to fall, an increasing number of homeowners and businesses are opting to invest in solar power systems. As a result of constant price reductions, more households will be able to afford solar power systems.

Maysun collaborates with a number of national suppliers and has assisted many customers with solar panel installation.

Twisun 390W--410W Double Glass Full Black PV module PERC 210mm 120cells
TwiSun Series

Since 2008, Maysun Solar has specialised in the production of high-quality solar panels. We offer a wide range of products, including monocrystalline and glas-glas solar panels, as well as roof tiles with half-cut, MBB, and IBC technologies, which provide superior performance and a stylish design that will blend in with any building. Maysun Solar has successfully established offices and warehouses in numerous countries, as well as long-term relationships with excellent installers! Please contact us for the most recent module quotations or any PV-related inquiries.

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