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Dark side of solar? Are we thinking about it ?

March 25, 2017

 

The growth in solar energy over the past decade has been tremendous. This growing demand for PV solar panels is finally bringing happiness to the people who were worried about the environmental issues. A PV rooftop module provides clean renewable energy throughout the year whose life span is 20 to 30 years. Despite having this life span , people always look for better efficiency for their homes and offices and uninstall older pv modules even though they are working well. This attitude has lead to a greater risk of increase in the e-waste in the coming future.

 

The alarming number of solar panels being installed today will eventually end up in the  e-waste on a truly grand scale in few decades.  Clearly, landfilling is never an option as it might again pollute the environments with components like cadmium and lead. And the choice we are left with is recycling.

Recycling solar panels is not a simple task as the units are assembled from extremely different materials such as :

 

  • Glass (comprising the front cover of most PV panels)

  • Aluminum (frame)

  • Synthetic materials used to encapsulate and seal in the silicon cells — these may include such substances as ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyvinyl butyral (PVB) and/or polyvinyl fluoride)

  • Silicon solar cells

  • Metals such as lead, copper, gallium and cadmium

A good recycling process of these waste would be one which can recover the major components with minimal loss and consumption of energy. The materials can then be re-used to manufacture new panels, or for other industrial applications. Such as silicon cells themselves can often be recovered and re-etched to be used again. This is significant, because the creation of new silicon cells is an energy-intensive process.

Advanced solar panel recycling is the technology that is coming into practice recently. Certain European companies have come up with a process of recovering up to 95% of the panel materials. Though these processes are known for its highest recovery rate, the consequences of this process is still very important to consider for a safer future.

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