January 27, 2021

Photovoltaic solar panel recycling can demean the solar industry in the US

2 min read

The solar industry is among the flagged waste generators since the worn-out panels have to be dumped. This fact cancels out the clean energy factor that the solar industry contributes to the economy. The solar industry is facing the problem of discarding millions of solar modules and wasted solar materials in landfills in the future. An initiative by Recycle PV Solar wants to resolve this issue while it is still in its first stage. The US’s solar industry is expanding rapidly with affordable prices the awareness of citizens about climate change. 

The coronavirus pandemic impeded the growth of the industry, coupled with the import tariffs imposed by the former president of the US, Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the markets are rising again for the solar industry, although the solar panels’ distribution is sluggish, with customers implementing caution over the renewables they are entering. The solar industry’s challenge is that the solar panels have a predictable lifetime bringing into play the cost of recycling them, especially when many of these solar PV panels are being phased out excessively. The recycling projects and policies for these regulations are still behind in the US compared to Europe and other regions, which forces the developers and the owners of the worn out panels to discard them in landfills. 

The difference between the US and the European Union is that the EU requires the PV module developers to be responsible for their electronic wastes. The developers must retrieve the waste solar panels and recycle them. On the other hand, Japan requires the solar developers and owners to account for the wastes they dispose of and pay up decommissioning fees for the panels they wish to discard. However, the US has lenient regulations concerning the recycling and treatment of solar PV wastes making the country lag back in handling this problem. In the whole USA, it is only First Solar that has the technology of recycling these wastes. Nevertheless, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is pondering this matter, having developed five recycling utilities in 12 areas with three more developing countries. 

Recycle PV Solar (RPVS) started an initiative last year partnering with PV Cycle to resolve this problem. The chief executive of the RPVS, Sam Vanderhoof, stated that they did not anticipate the future of degraded solar PV panels whole developing them. He outlined that they developed the panels to last for three decades, and they are now conducting business with the process of uninstalling them. The company explains that the cost of recycling these panels is high compared to throwing them in landfills. 

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