How to Minimize the Environmental Impact of Solar Panel Waste?

We all know the significance of solar energy in protecting the environment from harmful gas emissions of conventional electricity sources. It is one of the cost-effective solutions that will decarbonize the entire energy system of the globe. The environmental impact of renewable solar power has been observed in fighting against the climatic challenges of global warming by reducing the dependence on gas-fired or coal electricity.

To meet India’s target of increasing the share of renewable energy in overall installed electricity generation capacity to 65% by 2030, there is a need to install more rooftop solar panels for home, residential flats, commercial buildings, and other areas. But while installing more solar panels to harvest renewable solar energy, we need to consider the sustainable manufacturing and installation process. The aim should be to reduce the environmental impact resulting from their disposal.

In this post, you will discover the ways to minimize solar waste’s impact on the environment.

Estimation of Solar Photovoltaic Waste

The slowly increasing problem of solar waste can be addressed by predicting solar waste through a mathematical probability distribution function. In India, solar PV installation began from around 2010. So, the corresponding photovoltaic waste due to constant loss circumstances should be produced by 2035-2040. It is estimated that the main point from the perspective of waste production will reach by 2040.  The anticipated projects will create the foundation for solar PV waste estimation.

According to IEA, India’s solar waste could be predicted to average 50,000–320,000 tonnes by 2030. It may possibly end up to 4.4 to 7.5 million tonnes by 2050. The variation in the waste volume depends on different studies conducted in India.

Manufacturing Solar Panels for Long-Term

According to IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), producing and installing large amounts of solar panels will result in a waste stream by the 2030s because rooftop solar adoption is rising constantly. Thus, there is a need to develop panels that will last long and perform effectively throughout the lifespan, helping consumers with excellent cost saving through solar power and environmental benefits.

In simpler terms, there is a need to develop solar panels that last and operate efficiently for multiple decades. The later they will require to replace. This will greatly minimize the waste amount that is sent to recycling or landfills.

To increase the solar panels’ lifespan, the focus should be on how to create solar panels to withstand harsh climatic conditions. Solar panels designed with support bars at their ends tend to survive in wind loads of up to 7,000 Pascal or heavy snow. Solar systems by industry-recognized companies offer at least a 25-year product and performance warranty and assure about 92% or more of nameplate power in 25 years.   

Designing Solar Panels That Are Right for Recycling

The solar panel waste can be reduced by creating panels that are perfect to be recycled or repurposed. IRENA reported that there is a potential of 78 million tons of solar photovoltaic waste that could be reused or recycled by 2050. However, this would be a great challenge because the overall recycling of solar panels is still not implemented completely at a global level. Proper local infrastructure and national regulations are required across worldwide solar markets.

To ensure complete recycling of solar panels is adopted at a global level in a cost-effective and sustainable way, there is a need to perform detailed research and development. Recycling leftover crashed silicon laminate mix is a major issue because other materials like copper, glass, plastics, and aluminum can be recovered via recycling. By developing and installing solar panels that can be conveniently recycled, the challenge of solar panel waste can be easily resolved.  

Technologies Required for Solar Panel Recycling and Recovery

With the development of effective recycling and recovery technologies, extracting some materials like aluminum, silicon wafers, etc. become effortless. Recovering these materials eliminates the requirement to assemble and process organic resources, thereby saving a significant amount of effort and resources.

Ways of Sorting and Separation

Proper sorting and separation of different solar panel components is essential for proper recycling. So, there is a need to develop methods that can enhance sorting and separation. For example, robotic sorting systems, automated shredding processes, and optical scanners. Such methods can help easily find and separate different forms of materials that will eventually improve the recovery rate and result in the formation of a minimum amount of trash.  

Government Policies and Regulatory Agencies

Just like creating solar energy awareness, the government of India and regulatory agencies can play a vital role in the growth of environmental management of solar system waste. In many countries across the world, the proper management, recycling, and disposal of solar systems are directed by governmental policies and laws.

Such policies and regulations help in promoting the growth of recycling infrastructure. Solar panel manufacturers receive incentives from the government for using more sustainable practices. The development of environment-friendly waste management is expanding EPR (extended producer responsibility) programmes, which consider producers responsible for managing their end-of-life products.

Closed-Loop Systems

Another innovative solution to reduce the environmental impact of solar panel waste is developing closed-loop systems that create a circular economy for solar panel waste. These systems need solar systems to be designed while considering their reusability and recycling.

Manufacturers are required to include sustainable design features like using recyclable materials, effortless disassembly, and accepted interfaces. This helps encourage the reuse and recovery of components in successive panels.

Final Words

The environmental and economic benefits of solar energy are making more homeowners go solar.  They understand the importance of solar system AMC services and getting installation with AMC services to ensure smooth functioning and effortless maintenance of their solar systems. The increasing demand is resulting in manufacturing more solar panels. Thus, it’s time to think about how to reduce the negative impact of end-of-life solar panel waste on the environment.

Constant research and development of easily recycled solar panels is essential for managing solar system waste. Developing closed-loop systems, separation and sorting methods, and necessary government policies can result in less production of waste and reduced impact of the end-of-life of solar panels.   

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