A new report predicts the total annual recycled product value of crystalline silicon solar panels will hit USD $12 billion in 2035.
While a good quality solar panel will have a lifespan of decades – some modules manufactured in the 80’s are still going strong – the massive uptake of PV technology will see huge volumes of panels being retired at some stage.
The good news is given crystalline solar panels contain very few components and by weight mainly consist of aluminium, glass and silicon; over 90% of a panel’s weight can be recycled into more modules or other products.
Various schemes are already evolving for PV recycling. In October last year, we reported PV Cycle had collected over 2,900 tonnes of end-of-life modules under its Collective Scheme and Individual System. More than 200 solar panel manufacturers are now members of PV Cycle, including Suntech, REC, AUO and Hanwha SolarOne.
The solar panel recycling industry looks set to be a lucrative one. According to a recent report from GlobalData, by 2025 the amount of end of life crystalline-based solar panels is expected to reach approximately 19,475 tons of waste, growing to 1,098,282 tons by 2035. This massive increase will see PV recycling become an emerging market during the 15 year time frame.
GlobalData says the total recycled product value of crystalline modules is expected to increase from $122 million in 2025 to $12 billion by 2035.
The report, entitled “Solar Module Recycling – A Necessary Step to Maximize Environmental Benefits of Solar PV Industry”, says the value per watt of a recycled PV module will reach $0.58 by 2025, increasing to $1.21 per watt in 2035. GlobalData says major factors behind the rise of recycled product value will be the increased recycled mass of solar panel glass and aluminium and the expected market price variations of the crystalline modules.
While primarily focusing on crystalline silicon PV given its major share of the market, the report also details the cost analysis of PV recycling processes for technologies such as a-Si (Amorphous silicon), CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) and CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium, Selenide).