A Complete Guide To Solar Panel Recycling

May 13, 2022

The solar business is advancing at a breakneck speed, with more efficient and long-lasting panels being introduced each year. Most high-quality panels guarantee at least 80% efficiency after 25 years, however many panels barely survive 10 years. We commonly receive requests for the disposal of solar panels that are less than 6 years old.

The industry is confronted with a problem that many others have faced: what to do with their product once its life cycle has ended. Even though excellent quality solar panels have a 25-30 year life, there will be an inflow of old panels into our waste disposal business within the next several decades. In fact, the lower-quality ones are already accumulating in warehouses around the country. So, is it possible to get adequately rid of solar panels?

Fortunately, some of our most ingenious individuals are striving to solve this issue. They have devised methods to assist us with solar panel recycling in Australia.

In this article, we will lead you through the many procedures and methods for solar panel recycling, as well as explain them in depth.

Are Solar Panels Recyclable?

Solar modules are largely made of recyclable materials. It indicates that solar panel recycling is a viable option. End-of-life solar modules may be dealt with if they are appropriately repurposed and reused.

Fortunately, solar panel recycling is gaining popularity now more than ever before. More and more scientists and engineers are making substantial advances in the proper management of solar PV module trash and solar panel installation. Many individuals are also developing methods to reuse and recycle solar panels after their useful life has finished.

How Much Solar Panels Can Be Recycled?

Even with recycling product weight objectives of 65 per cent, some of the currently investigated recycling technologies can recycle more than 80 per cent of the weight of a PV module. However, there is still room to improve, given that the majority of the weight is from glass and frame, which are reasonably straightforward to remove depending on the recycling process.

Which parts of solar panels can be recycled?

Glass, aluminium frames and brackets, semiconductors, crystalline silicon, electric junction boxes, and plastics may all be recycled in different ways.

The aluminium frames are the most valuable and easiest to recycle element of a solar panel.

Each solar panel also contains around 80% crystalline silicon, which may be recovered and purified for reuse.

Depending on the age and kind of product, parts from cables and inverters may potentially be recycled or sold. Older inverters with a transformer can be recycled for a larger range of scrap metals, however, modern inverters are often recycled as e-waste.

How to Recycle Solar Panels?

Understanding the various physical characteristics of solar photovoltaic panels is beneficial when discussing how to deal with solar panel trash and sustainable end-of-life operations. The following fundamental components are used in the production of most solar panels:

  • Metal framework (usually an aluminium frame)
  • Plexiglass or glass (usually 75 per cent of the panel)
  • Solar cells made of crystalline silicon
  • Installation of wires (usually copper wiring)

While aluminium, glass, and copper are all recyclable materials, recycling a solar panel isn't as simple as dropping it off at your local recycling facility. The components included within the panels must be removed and recycled individually, which may be a time-consuming and labour-intensive operation. Solar panels are also coated with polymer sealing, which might include chemicals such as ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), complicating glass recycling. If the encapsulant from the glass can be removed, the glass can be recycled.

But what about the silicon solar cells that are recycled? It is conceivable, although it is a little more difficult than recycling basic metals and glass.

Silicon solar cells are commonly produced from quartz, a crystal composed of two of the most prevalent elements on the planet: oxygen and silicon. To obtain silicon crystals clean enough for current solar cells, this quartz must be refined, a procedure that varies depending on the manufacturer. Pure silicon, like conventional plastic, dissolves somewhat when recycled. This indicates that the material's quality will deteriorate with each successive use.

Currently, there are two primary ways for solar panel recycling: mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

Recycling Solar Panels Mechanically

Mechanical recycling, the most basic type of solar panel recycling, is disassembling the solar panel and recycling its individual components: glass, metal, copper wire, and silicon solar modules.

These diverse materials are crushed into little bits and broken down into a substance comparable in consistency to sand in recycling plants. The material is then subjected to a magnetic separation process, which eliminates and separates the metals contained inside. These essential elements may be recycled to manufacture glass, roads, insulation, and other products. Mechanical recycling at its most sophisticated level can recover 99 per cent of raw materials at a rate of one solar panel installation every 40 seconds.

Solar Panels Recycled Chemically

Chemical (or thermal) recycling delaminates a solar panel, separates its chemical components, and recaptures the pure silicon within it using chemical treatments and heat. Although research in this area yields encouraging outcomes, large-scale efficiency remains a challenge. Furthermore, the creation and treatment of potentially hazardous gases connected with this recycling process continue to pose difficulties to its economic feasibility.

How to dispose of solar panels?

You can take the following measures apart from recycling to dispose of your waste solar panels:

  1. Sell or give them away. Although they cannot be reused for large-scale installations, functional solar panels are popular among handymen, travellers, and home DIYers wishing to finish smaller projects. They're also handy for camping or giving extra electricity to campervans when they're not connected to the grid. You may sell your old panels on an online marketplace to find someone who will transform them into a tiny upcycling project.
  2. Pay for the disposal of e-waste. Except for Victoria, which recently enacted legislation prohibiting the disposal of e-waste, most states provide e-waste disposal at a cost. To learn more about charges and possibilities, contact your local garbage disposal facility.
  3. Sell them to a scrap metal broker. Although not all pieces will be recycled, a scrap dealer may be prepared to take your panels so they can earn a few dollars of the desirable bits and then dispose of the rubbish.

It might be difficult to recycle solar panels on your own. The easiest approach to have them recycled effectively is to contact your solar panel installation and ask them to recycle them for you.

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Thomas P
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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