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Waste solar panel recycling  photovoltaics rebirth | Upload Recycling

Solar Panel Recycling: Photovoltaics Rebirth

by: Yvonne Doff
solar panel recycling  photovoltaics rebirth | Upload

The energy sector has gone through a drastic change, and the gradual transition to renewable energy sources is more than visible. But what may look durable, does not stay that way. This is at least the most occurring concern concerning photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

The Lifetime of Solar Panels

house, solar panels, balcony

Solar panels glimmering in the sun are an icon of all that is green. But while generating electricity through photovoltaics is indeed better for the environment than burning fossil fuels, several incidents have linked the manufacture of these shining symbols of environmental virtue to a trail of chemical pollution. And it turns out that the time it takes to compensate for the energy used and the greenhouse gases emitted in photovoltaic panel production varies substantially by technology and geography.

Recommended: Tiny House WikiHouse With Solar Panels On Roof And Walls

They are a long-lasting source of energy, only dependent on solar radiation, and able to supply electricity to our homes. But what happens to solar panels if they don't work efficiently? Discover their journey through the process of recycling in the infographic below:

recycling solar panels graph

What is the lifespan of solar panels? A lot of people ask this question when they consider solar panels. Research has shown that the lifespan of solar panels is about 30 years before they are dismantled. A 20 percent reduction in power can occur during the lifespan of photovoltaic panels. The maximum reduction is 10 percent between the first 10 and 12 years. This would be 20 percent when the PV panels reach 25 years. In reality, the efficiency of solar panels will decrease by only 6 to 8 percent. So, the lifespan of solar panels could be longer than officially stated.

Disposal of Solar Panels

From a regulatory point of view, PV panel waste still falls under the general waste classification. At the EU level, there is a single exception, where PV panels are defined as e-waste in the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The management of waste from photovoltaic panels is regulated by this Directive, as a complement to other regulatory frameworks.

destroyed rows of solar panels
Photo by: Ricardo Arduengo. Solar panel debris lies scattered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico

Manufacturers of solar cells are legally obliged to fulfill specific legal requirements and recycling standards to ensure that solar panels are not becoming a burden to the environment. Photovoltaic manufacturers have been working with government agencies and have thought of several ways to deal with the waste from solar energy.

Solar Panel Waste

We need to recycle because otherwise, there would be 60 million tons of Photovoltaic panels waste lying in landfills by 2050. The solar cells contain a specific amount of toxic substances, and that would not be a sustainable way to generate energy.


                                                               Will renewables end up as more landfills?

It is a myth that solar panels are not recyclable. It needs time and research to see the full potential of adequate recycling of all solar panel parts. This is why it is necessary for recycling and designing work closely together so that the ability to recycle is guaranteed by using mindful eco-designs.

Recommended: Waste: The Netherlands Creates New Material From Sewage

Solar Panel Recycling Processes

There are two different main types of solar panels. They both need a different recycling approach. You have solar panels bases on silicon and based on thin-film. At this moment, solar panels based on silicon occurs more often, but that would not imply that the materials of thin-film cells would not be of significant value

Research has shown that there are a lot of technologies in recycling solar panels. Some of them show a result of 96% recycling efficiency. They strive to do better in the future.

Recommended: Wind Turbines: Waste From These Blade Runners?

Silicon-Based Solar Panel Recycling

The process of recycling silicon-based PV panels starts with the disassembly of the actual product to split the aluminum and glass parts. You can reuse almost every piece (95%) of the glass, while all the exterior metal parts are used for the repainting of cell frames.

The other materials are heated at 500°C in a thermal processing unit to facilitate bonding between the cell elements. Due to the extreme heat, the embedded plastic evaporates, making the silicon cells ready for further processing. The supported technology makes sure that even plastic is not wasted and is therefore reused as a heat source for further thermal processing.

Thin-Film Based Solar Panel Recycling

Thin-film based panels are processed more drastically in comparison to silicon panels. First, you need to place them in a shredder. That ensures that the particles are no bigger than 4-5mm. At this size, the lamination holds the inner materials together, breaks, and can, therefore, be removed. The remaining material exists of both liquid and solid substances. A rotating screw is used to separate these remaining materials.

Recommended: Designing Business Models: Reciprocity And Circularity

Liquids undergo a dewatering and precipitation process to guarantee their purity. The resulting material goes through metal processing to completely separate the different semiconductor components. However, on average, 95% of the semiconductor material is reused.

Solids are polluted with so-called interlayers, which are lighter in weight and can be eliminated by a vibrating surface.

The Future Benefits of Solar Waste Management

solar waste management graph

We know now solar panels are recyclable. But are there any other benefits for the economy? Recycling Photovoltaic panels will create more green jobs. PV recycling will recover around £11 billion in recoverable value by 2050. This makes it possible to produce 2 billion new panels, without investing in raw materials. As a result of the ongoing price reductions of solar energy, more households and companies are choosing to invest in solar energy systems. This will create even more economic opportunities in the solar cell recycling sector.

Before you go!

Recommended: Gravitricity: Fast, Versatile Energy Storage Solution, UK

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
We try to respond the same day.

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Hans - 6 WEEKS AGO
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Dear reader,

Thanks for your message. You can solve the problem if you follow the next steps:

How do you zoom in on Google Images on Android?
In order to force zoom in Chrome, you need to follow these steps:
Open Chrome on your Android device.
Tap the menu button in the top right corner.
Tap Settings.
Tap the Accessibility entry.
Tap to enable the Force enable zoom option

I hope you can zoom in now on the images and graphs.

Have a nice day.

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Hans van der Broek
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Writer, traveller and dreamer. Love to write, like to travel. Passion for language, cultures and what happens in the world. 

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More like this:

Solar Panel Recycling: Photovoltaics Rebirth

The energy sector has gone through a drastic change, and the gradual transition to renewable energy sources is more than visible. But what may look durable, does not stay that way. This is at least the most occurring concern concerning photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. The Lifetime of Solar Panels Solar panels glimmering in the sun are an icon of all that is green. But while generating electricity through photovoltaics is indeed better for the environment than burning fossil fuels, several incidents have linked the manufacture of these shining symbols of environmental virtue to a trail of chemical pollution. And it turns out that the time it takes to compensate for the energy used and the greenhouse gases emitted in photovoltaic panel production varies substantially by technology and geography. Recommended:  Tiny House WikiHouse With Solar Panels On Roof And Walls They are a long-lasting source of energy, only dependent on solar radiation, and able to supply electricity to our homes. But what happens to solar panels if they don't work efficiently? Discover their journey through the process of recycling in the infographic below: What is the lifespan of solar panels? A lot of people ask this question when they consider solar panels. Research has shown that the lifespan of solar panels is about 30 years before they are dismantled. A 20 percent reduction in power can occur during the lifespan of photovoltaic panels. The maximum reduction is 10 percent between the first 10 and 12 years. This would be 20 percent when the PV panels reach 25 years. In reality, the efficiency of solar panels will decrease by only 6 to 8 percent. So, the lifespan of solar panels could be longer than officially stated. Disposal of Solar Panels From a regulatory point of view, PV panel waste still falls under the general waste classification. At the EU level, there is a single exception, where PV panels are defined as e-waste in the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The management of waste from photovoltaic panels is regulated by this Directive, as a complement to other regulatory frameworks. Photo by: Ricardo Arduengo. Solar panel debris lies scattered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico Manufacturers of solar cells are legally obliged to fulfill specific legal requirements and recycling standards to ensure that solar panels are not becoming a burden to the environment. Photovoltaic manufacturers have been working with government agencies and have thought of several ways to deal with the waste from solar energy. Solar Panel Waste We need to recycle because otherwise, there would be 60 million tons of Photovoltaic panels waste lying in landfills by 2050. The solar cells contain a specific amount of toxic substances, and that would not be a sustainable way to generate energy. {youtube}                                                                Will renewables end up as more landfills? It is a myth that solar panels are not recyclable. It needs time and research to see the full potential of adequate recycling of all solar panel parts. This is why it is necessary for recycling and designing work closely together so that the ability to recycle is guaranteed by using mindful eco-designs. Recommended:  Waste: The Netherlands Creates New Material From Sewage Solar Panel Recycling Processes There are two different main types of solar panels. They both need a different recycling approach. You have solar panels bases on silicon and based on thin-film. At this moment, solar panels based on silicon occurs more often, but that would not imply that the materials of thin-film cells would not be of significant value Research has shown that there are a lot of technologies in recycling solar panels. Some of them show a result of 96% recycling efficiency. They strive to do better in the future. Recommended:  Wind Turbines: Waste From These Blade Runners? Silicon-Based Solar Panel Recycling The process of recycling silicon-based PV panels starts with the disassembly of the actual product to split the aluminum and glass parts. You can reuse almost every piece (95%) of the glass, while all the exterior metal parts are used for the repainting of cell frames. The other materials are heated at 500°C in a thermal processing unit to facilitate bonding between the cell elements. Due to the extreme heat, the embedded plastic evaporates, making the silicon cells ready for further processing. The supported technology makes sure that even plastic is not wasted and is therefore reused as a heat source for further thermal processing. Thin-Film Based Solar Panel Recycling Thin-film based panels are processed more drastically in comparison to silicon panels. First, you need to place them in a shredder. That ensures that the particles are no bigger than 4-5mm. At this size, the lamination holds the inner materials together, breaks, and can, therefore, be removed. The remaining material exists of both liquid and solid substances. A rotating screw is used to separate these remaining materials. Recommended:  Designing Business Models: Reciprocity And Circularity Liquids undergo a dewatering and precipitation process to guarantee their purity. The resulting material goes through metal processing to completely separate the different semiconductor components. However, on average, 95% of the semiconductor material is reused. Solids are polluted with so-called interlayers, which are lighter in weight and can be eliminated by a vibrating surface. The Future Benefits of Solar Waste Management We know now solar panels are recyclable. But are there any other benefits for the economy? Recycling Photovoltaic panels will create more green jobs. PV recycling will recover around £11 billion in recoverable value by 2050. This makes it possible to produce 2 billion new panels, without investing in raw materials. As a result of the ongoing price reductions of solar energy, more households and companies are choosing to invest in solar energy systems. This will create even more economic opportunities in the solar cell recycling sector. Before you go! Recommended:  Gravitricity: Fast, Versatile Energy Storage Solution, UK Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about recycling of renewables? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
Stay Updated on Environmental Improvements And Global Innovations