While the serviceable life of most solar panels is at least a couple of decades and some solar panel installations commissioned in the 1970’s are still functioning today; at some stage in the time ahead a flood of panels will need to be disposed of – and preferably recycled.
Solar panels are essentially simple devices containing materials such as silicon, glass, aluminium and semiconductor materials that are all recyclable. Only a very small percentage of a solar panel’s weight need ever be totally discarded. Recycling of solar panels is not only technically and economically feasible, but it could greatly decrease the overall ecological footprint associated with production
Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (stock: STP) the world’s largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules, announced recently that the company has joined PV Cycle; a European association establishing a voluntary take-back and recycling program for solar panels. Suntech said that with 1GW of Suntech solar panels sold since its inception, the company believes it is essential that Suntech take a proactive role in developing effective recycling programs.
Through PV Cycle, the solar panel industry aims to develop overall waste management and recycling policy that achieves the highest economically feasible and environmentally responsible collection and recycling of PV modules. PV Cycle now covers around 80% of the European photovoltaic market with its 35 member companies spread around the world.
While PV Cycle is only covering the European market at present and no similar organisation yet exists in Australia, PV Cycle’s efforts will certainly lay the groundwork that other regions will be able to follow.