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Solar Panel Recycling Initiative Hits Major Milestone

A good quality solar panel has a serviceable life of decades, but even after that time modules have value. A solar panel recycling initiative in Europe has ensured thousands of tonnes of old and broken modules have been given new life.

Only a very small percentage of a solar panel’s weight has to be discarded as modules contain highly sought after recyclable materials such as silicon, glass and aluminium. Technically feasible and economically viable, recycling solar panels also greatly decreases the overall environmental footprint of PV solar.

PV Cycle is a European voluntary take-back and recycling program for solar panels; entirely financed by solar panel producers and free for end-users. The program has grown rapidly, with nearly 230 panel manufacturers now participating – representing more than 90% of the European market for photovoltaic modules. Members include Suntech, REC, AUO and Hanwha SolarOne.

The organisation recently announced it had collected 1,020 tonnes of end-of-life modules under its Collective Scheme since it became operational in June 2010. Additionally, under its Individual System, PV Cycle has collected and processed 1,900 tonnes of solar panels in the same period.

“The work being done today and the success of the system so far is the best guarantee for the entire PV value-chain to be able to adequately process any modules disposed of in the near future,” said PV Cycle’s Managing Director, Mr Jan Clyncke.

Almost 45% of the panels collected and processed so far come from the world’s PV solar stronghold, Germany; followed by Spain, Italy, Poland, Belgium and France.

While Australia is yet to see a PV Cycle-type arrangement established and for many solar power system owners it will still be decades before such a service is required, it’s good to know that thanks to the pioneering work carried out by bodies such as PV Cycle, recycling systems should be in place when that time comes.

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