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Good News in the Solar Panel Recycling Department

-Image generated by Microsoft Bing AI


Things have changed rapidly in this space in the 12 months since the previous article was written. According to the World Economic Forum 95% of the materials in solar panels can be recovered. The technology already exists and many countries are racing to capitalise on this. See for example this YouTube clip which is a bit long to include here. However, it does need to be scaled up.

Ways to Encourage Recycling

The EU is already ahead on recycling because it’s policy settings demand that manufacturers take responsibility for their products once they reach the end of their useful life, just as they have done long ago with respect to packaging.

Other ways to encourage this is to charge a raw material tax which would provide greater incentive for using recycled materials over new. It takes far more energy to mine and transport the original material than to use materials which have already been extracted and processed. 

A third option is to charge the equivalent of a 'bottle deposit' on the new product to allow for its correct disposal. With the cost of solar panels falling all the time - by 80% in the last decade, a small impost of this nature, would not make them more expensive. 

Lastly, an analysis by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that a modest government subsidy over say, 12 years would enable the recycling industry scale up rapidly.

Newer types of solar panels coming onto the market, such as those which come in a flexible roll and have no frames or glass (see below), may also make this easier and now that solar panels are becoming so ubiquitous, perhaps it's time to design them specifically so that parts can be easily dismantled and reused.

Re -use

There is a better way to save energy and emissions on solar panels before we even consider recycling. Although newer panels can last 20 -30 years and some companies even guarantee theirs for 40 years, at peak efficiency, they can last far longer, albeit at lower output. This has led to a lively second -hand market in the USA, where less efficient solar panels are still useful for places such as barns where space is not limited and will allow for another panel or two to make up for the energy loss. 
Do occasionally used facilities such as a beach shack or the Scout Hall really need brand new solar panels when slightly less powerful ones could be obtained at a fraction of the cost? 
They are also useful in other applications such as road signs where lower energy output is not a problem. One respondent in the comments section of the 1st YouTube clip said that in Alaska they use retired solar panels for waterproof roofing and sidings on homes and barns and still get 50% of their energy from them.

By the way, there are lots of other interesting things happening in this field. Couldn't resist including this one.

One for the Skeptics (Not strictly related to recycling).

What about the people who still think solar panels only work when the sun shines? Researchers at Stanford University have developed a solar panel which can work in the dark or when it rains, to supply energy round the clock.


Or this....

In other good news, a four-year trial in New South Wales (Australia) -and there are several of these in progress in the USA as well, has shown that carrying capacity for sheep living under solar panels increased by 25% because the additional moisture retained allowed the grass to grow better which in turn meant either that the sheep grew bigger or more could be stocked and their wool quality improved too.

Next time: Prelude to an Adventure

[Written with Assistance from Bing AI re references and illustrations].