Solar panel recycling has a long way to go, and silicon may be the key

Solar panel recycling has a long way to go, and silicon may be the key

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DOT
)

Solar energy is really starting to get its wings, with utility
and residential installation growing at a rapid clip. While these
systems generally operate for two or three decades, there
inevitably comes a time to take photovoltaic panels down for
replacement. What happens then has a lot to say about solar’s
long-term bottom line.

The opportunity is there to turn old PV panels into new ones,
reducing the technology’s environmental footprint. But in a paper
published in Nature Sustainability, a group led by Garvin Heath at
the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory argues we have a long
way to go—though they think they see the way.

A matter of purity

Currently, they say, standard practice is to hand solar panels
to existing glass- or metal-recycling facilities—at best, batches
of panels may be at least be run through on their own. That does
little more than recover the aluminum in the frame, the copper in
the wiring, and the glass sheet atop the photovoltaic cells. Laws
mandating panel recycling haven’t advanced beyond the drawing board
in many places yet, with the European Union and the state of
Washington in the US as exceptions. The EU requires at least 75
percent of material to be recovered, and these processes can hit
that mark.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Solar panel recycling has a long way to go, and silicon may
be the key