How Are Solar Systems Recycled?
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
As the world continues to find newer ways of generating electricity, resources such as solar energy are becoming more accessible and affordable for the everyday consumer. In fact, over 400 gigawatts of solar systems have been installed all around the world. However, what happens when 20-30 years pass, and these solar systems complete their cycle?
Well, many solar companies have found ways of refurbishing already used solar systems, so they can begin a new life cycle for another home. In other cases, the entire solar system may not recycle as easily, but may have parts that can. For instance, as mentioned in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s website: “Inverters can be recycled as e-Waste and racking equipment can be re-utilized with newer technology or recycled like other metals” (2020).
There are even “take-back” and recycling programs under the SEIA that offer to collect the PV modules that reach the end of their life cycles. Once sent to a recycling organization, program, or company, the PV modules are then transported, processed, and resold to be used for other resources or third-party companies in other countries (2020). Given that most solar panels are made up of glass and aluminum, by over 80%, they are in fact capable of being recycled (2019).
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(2020). “Recycling & End-of-Life Considerations for Photovoltaics.” SEIA. Retrieved from https://www.seia.org/initiatives/recycling-end-life-considerations-photovoltaics.
(2019, May). “Engaging the circular economy approach.” SEIA. Retrieved from https://www.seia.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/SEIA-EOL-Considerations-PV-Factsheet-May2019.pdf.