That debated about how environment friendly the actual solar panels are is raging supreme. However, it is not stopping the demand for clean energy to sky rocket. Yet, we still believe the demand isn’t anywhere near where it needs to be. Solar panel recycling is something all sights are set on currently. Climate change and air pollution are going crazy as it is with fossil fuel usage and whatnot.
More people are now realizing the manufacturing processes for solar panels. Once in use, solar systems might not produce any pollution or greenhouse gases. However, what materials get used in their manufacture is a different issue altogether. Recycling the actual solar panels can solve this problem. This is something that can put to rest the solar panel ecofriendly debate as well.
How Solar Panels Are Bad for the Environment?
Of course, everyone knows solar panels will provide energy without consuming any fossil fuels or natural resources at all. As long as the sun shines, you will have solar energy available to be put to use. However, when it comes to manufacturing solar panels, the materials used might be different.
Are Solar Panels Really Toxic?
In all fairness, hazardous chemicals are involved in solar panel manufacturing. However, workers today have access to protective equipment. Also, there is the consideration of what happens to those toxic materials. Unfortunately, they have to be wasted somewhere. And when done irresponsibly, this toxic materials waste can be hazardous.
This is where solar panels recycling will be useful. Manufacturers will be able to use those materials again without using hazardous chemicals over and over again. Also, it is important to know that once produced, there is no toxicity in solar panels at all.
Can Solar Panel Recycling Be Done?
The short answer is: Of Course, Yes. When discarded responsibly, recycling for solar panels is very much possible. Majority of solar panel materials include plastic, glass, aluminum, silicon and metals. Most of these are easily recyclable.
However, recycling solar panels can be a complicated process. There are different methods of solar panel recycling as well. When recycled, there will be no need to use those hazardous chemicals again in the process. Also, recycling all these mentioned materials saves new materials from ever getting used. So, this is why recycling makes great sense.
How Important Is Solar Panel Recycling?
There are two main reasons why recycling is very important for even the best solar panels:
- Reclaiming valuable materials used in manufacturing
- Reducing hazardous landfill waste
Also, more components that get recycled, less landfill waste will accumulate. Also, many materials on these panels are actually recyclable. Still, many companies fail to do so. Millions of tons of solar waste end up in landfills due to that. Some valuable and recoverable materials include germanium, selenium, gallium, tellurium, cadmium and indium. When these get recycled, you’ll get new panels that further reduce more material consumption in new manufacture.
Where Does the Solar Panel Recycling Stand Today?
The demand for solar energy is huge across the world. 2021 was a big year for solar adoption globally. With all that heightened solar panel installation, there must be something done for recycling too. If not, we’ll only continue to add to that landfill problem. Rate of recycling solar panels must improve quite dramatically. With the lifespan of a quality solar panel being somewhere in the region of 25-30 years, we still have time to adapt.
Fortunately, many companies have started recycling for solar panels already. Additionally, there is big push to use reclaimed materials for solar panels as well. So, all this is shaping up to be quite nice for the solar powerindustry with more room for improvement.
How Solar Panel Recycling Works?
Mainly, there are two ways currently available to recycle solar panels. Thermal and chemical recycling is one and mechanical recycling is the other. Here’s more about them:
A combination of heat and chemical treatments is worked on the solar panels to be recycled. This process helps separate these panels and their chemical components returning them to the silicon state again. However, this process also does require some hazardous gases that makes it challenging.
On the other hand, mechanical recycling is much easier process. All that needs to be done is to strip away the panels for all their components. Recycling will be done on each component separately. Remaining materials will get crushed into a sand-like consistency. Some magnets will be used to remove and collect and valuable metals as well.
What About Solar Panels Reuse?
Firstly, yes, solar panels can be reused. Also, it will be cheaper to reuse and repurpose than to recycle solar panels. Understandably, these panels lose efficiency over time. Panels that are over 20 years old will not produce energy comparable to brand new ones. However, this is still no reason to just throw them out even if you have the money.
Small-scale solar projects can be entertained with such old low-efficiency panels. Projects like street sign illumination, solar charging devices and off-grid systems are very useful. When the right company gets their hands on used solar panels, they will be able to repurpose more efficiently.
Solar power is being adopted fast. Although, its rate of adoption needs to be sped up, so does solar panel recycling. In two decades, we will have many more panels heading for landfill if not recycled. So, homeowners need to prioritize companies that engage with recycling and also more recycling companies need to step up their game. Only together, can we make the world a better place.