Waste management of solar panels; Turn threats into opportunities
In addition to the benefits of solar energy, there are disadvantages. Solar panels contain hazardous constituents that, when released at the end of a panel life, pollute the environment. The following is a detailed explanation of the longevity and recycling of panels.
The lifespan of solar panels
The question that may arise for most people is how long do solar panels last?
According to studies, the lifespan of each panel is about 30 years. When using photovoltaic panels, the power generation direction may be reduced by 20%. Of course, in the first years, the maximum reduction in productivity is between 10 and 12 percent, which decreases to 20 percent when it reaches 25 years.
Destruction of solar panels
From a managerial point of view, solar panel waste is in the category of public waste. The only exception in the world at the EU level is where photovoltaic panels are defined as electronic waste.
Solar cell manufacturers are required by law to comply with recycling standards to ensure that solar panels do not pollute the environment.
After generating and using solar panels, the next loop of this cycle is the safe disposal or recycling of these products. In the waste management discussion, reuse or recovery is preferred over recycling.
A photovoltaic panel containing 75% glass, 10% polymer, 8% aluminum, 5% silicon, 1% copper, and a small amount of silver, tin, and lead.
Lead and tin will cause contamination if they penetrate soil and groundwater, while copper, silver, and silicon create valuable opportunities if recovered.
Therefore, to prevent environmental pollution instead of recycling, the landfill must be completed fully and recovered materials.
Despite these issues, recycling is still a costly option and requires high economic incentives to do so.
Among the valuable materials in the panel, silicone has the best chance of recovery due to its high purity.
Silicon can be used to make second-hand panels or in advanced lithium-ion batteries.
One industry's trash is another industry's treasure
The growth of electric vehicles has provided an opportunity to recycle and manage wastes. This growing industry may also be a place for the recycling of solar panels.
For electronic vehicles, like other vehicles, the battery plays a key role, but since it is electric and consumes more energy, batteries for electric vehicles (EV batteries) play a more vital role.
EV batteries are an important part of the total cost of electronic vehicles (33 % to 57 %, depending on the type of vehicle) and the manufacturing material is cost’s another major factor. Cost – reduction strategies rely on productive materials, i.e. different sources and processing of raw materials.
Proponents of electric cars will welcome lower prices. In 2015, the research found that silicon in Model S batteries increased vehicle range by up to 6 percent. Silicon recovered from solar panels can be used in EV batteries.
Future benefits of solar waste
The question now is that, apart from solar panels recycling, what are the other economic benefits?
A suitable infrastructure for the recycling of solar panels is needed. The infrastructure needs to handle large volumes of solar panels that need recycling in the future.
The infrastructure creates new opportunities in the economy. Not just the recycling of photovoltaic panels creates job opportunities, but by 2050, their recycling value will reach about 11 billion pounds. With recycling, two billion new panels can be produced without the need to use raw materials
This means that only by reuse recycled materials, the ability to produce about 630 GW of energy will exist.
Increasing the production of solar panels and reducing their prices have encouraged worldwide to invest in solar systems. As a result, in addition to the economic opportunities that come in this way, there will also be parts to recover and reuse panels, and it means economic growth.