#5 – Develop Panel Recycling Infrastructure

Each country where solar panels are sold will have unique hazardous waste, solid waste recycling and collection infrastructures.  We know these differences exist between states, here in the U.S. But you can imagine how much this would differ from country to country? These varying infrastructures are based on a region’s geography, climate, culture and economy.

Recycling laws in one country won’t automatically be suited for another country.  The exact system used in the EU might not work for the U.S. But what we do know is that voluntary programs do not work.

We also know that the U.S. needs good jobs and clean jobs. With the U.S. government and states investing millions in promoting solar, such as California’s commitment to putting a million solar panels on roofs, it is only logical that we invest in regional solar panel recycling   facilities that support US workers and communities.

It is estimated that solar panels will last 20-25 years and thousands of tons of waste will be created when they come down. For example, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) is developing two large-scale solar energy facilities and several smaller facilities in California that will total 1,300 megawatts (MW) or approximately 12,000,000 solar panels.  At the end of their useful lives, these panels will result in 190,000 tons of waste some of which is hazardous.

Why not create a system now to deal with decommissioned panels as well as plan for the future and look for areas in the U.S. where they can be recycled? Why not have a plan in place to create jobs here?

By supporting mandatory takeback and responsible recycling, solar companies can more than lower electric bills; they can prove that they are re-investing in the US.

Comments

Solar panels generally have a life span of 20-25 years, so most of them have not yet reached the end of their useful life. However, factory scrap, broken panels from transportation and field failures already provide recycling materials. While some manufacturing companies (Solar World, First Solar et.c.) are doing their own recycling, there are also some independent third party companies that undertake recycling tasks. Moreover, manufacturers and distributors have formed organizations for photovoltaic recycling, such as the PV CYCLE in Europe. In any case, all the necessary precautions should be taken due to the fact that some materials contained in the solar panels (silicon tetrachloride, cadmium, et.c.) are considered dangerous to the environment.