Solar Panel Recycling
Have you ever wondered how far science and technology have reached? Well! Here I am talking in context to electricity. The earlier fire was considered one of the greatest inventions by the apes then slowly as their needs increased the urge to invent new things increased. One such greatest invention is – Electricity. In the present scenario there are a lot of sources through which we can generate electricity, some common sources are:
- Hydropower plant
- Wind Mills
- PV panels
In this article, we will be talking about PV panels
What are Solar Panels/PV Panels?
PV panels or most commonly known as Solar Panels are an accumulation of semiconductors that absorbs sun rays and convert them to electricity. PV Panels being a renewable source of energy does not emit any harmful rays or substance, It is rather the cleanest source of energy. Unlike traditional sources of energy like oil and coal, it does not require any combustion hence there is no emission.
Solar panels in the present scenario are taking a very rapid growth in the market. Many giants are investing major shares in the solar industry. Solar panels can reduce the cost of electric bills, instead, they can be a source of passive income. There are multiple advantages of solar panels yet there are some drawbacks too. In this article, we will be focusing on the drawbacks of solar panels.
One such major drawback with solar panels is recycling them. Solar panels do have an operational life of 20-25 years. Indian market on the other hand is a growing market for solar panels with very limited infrastructure available for handling multi-tasking and maintenance of solar panels.
Why Solar Panel recycling is very difficult?
Solar panels are comprised of a number of materials like glass, metals, plastic, and semiconductors like silicon which it becomes very difficult to recycle or reuse their solar panels. It becomes very operationally difficult for the companies to separate every material and recycle everything in one place. This job becomes even more difficult when the panels exhaust life or if the panel is damaged.
Not only recycling is a difficult job, but also handling the operation of recycling all under one roof becomes difficult to execute. Solar panels being a useful source of energy with a long life span becomes an easy alternative to generate electricity but once they reach their lifespan or complete their lifespan it is very important to prevent them from ending up in landfills which can result in releasing toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
The multiple factors which cause difficulty to recycle solar panels:
- Lack of infrastructure: We are currently lacking in terms of the infrastructure required to properly recycle the panels. There are very limited options available to recycle the panels in a larger volume. The only option left is to either dump the panels in landfills or illegally export them to another country.
- Cost: Recycling solar panels can be costly as it involved decomposing toxic chemicals which are present in some types of panels. The recycling cost of solar panels comes higher than its manufacturing costs in some cases.
- Lack of awareness: Our country is a growing market in terms of solar energy. People are not even properly educated on the use of solar panels, recycling altogether is a different concept for them.
- Regulations: There is a lack of framework or lack or rules and regulations to recycle solar panels. Even the companies which manufacture solar panels do not provide a clear framework on how to dispose of or recycle the solar panels.
Process involved in recycling
The recycling process involves various steps, it starts with collecting and transporting the panels to a recycling facility. The panels are then sorted on the basis of the material of which they are made up of, such as silicon or maybe Germanium. The next step includes shredding and separating the materials by various processes such as thermal treatment, gravity separation, and magnification. The separated material is then further treated to extract valuable material such as silicon, copper, glass, etc.
Solutions of Solar Panel Recycling
Although there are so many difficulties involved in recycling solar panels there are some measures too which we all together can adopt to contribute towards a cleaner and better environment.
One approach we can go towards is to design the panels with recyclability using materials that are easily recyclable and separable. If we found this solution then it can reduce the complexities involved in the recycling process. Alternatively what companies can do is equally invest in the infrastructure and machinery required for recycling of solar panels. Our government here plays a major role, if the government introduces some incentives like subsidy schemes on recycling plants too then it can boost the recycling plants.
Also in the world of growing technology, there is a huge potential for the invention of new machinery which can be used to recycle the solar panels efficiently and without harming the nature.
Overall where solar panel recycling is a difficult job to do, there are a variety of solutions being developed or there is scope for such solutions – it only require equal consideration from society, the government, and big solar companies. After all recycling solar panels is an important step in the sustainable management of electronic and chemical waste and a transition towards a circular economy. Also where the market of solar panels is continuously growing the regulatory framework and infrastructure should also be taken care of at the same pace.