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Recycling and lifecycle management of solar panels

 

At Lightsource bp, we’re committed to managing our solar farms throughout their entire life cycle, including the responsible end-of-life management of solar equipment. We are committed to recycling all solar panels at our projects across the United States – that includes any panels damaged or nonfunctioning during construction, operations, and all panels at the end of life/decommissioning.

Lightsource bp is a board member of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), an organization whose members are dedicated to responsible end-of-life management and are proactively developing collection and recycling processes and policies for the solar industry as a whole.

The solar industry is also working to minimize the up-front impact of manufacturing the systems that generate solar power while increasing the effectiveness of those products through constant technology innovation. And there is a growing market for resale of refurbished solar panels – many are put to use in charitable, or off-grid projects as some modules that are damaged, either in transit or due to weather, may be repaired for reuse.

Although PV panels produced today will have a useful life 30-35 years or more, the panels will inevitably reach their end-of-life. The disposal of solar products in the US, including any materials that need special handling, is governed by the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and each state has its own policies in place for safe waste disposal.

Importantly, recycling of solar equipment is increasingly possible as more recyclers accept modules. PV panels typically consist of glass, aluminum, copper, silver and semiconductor materials that can be successfully recovered and reused. By weight, more than 80 percent of a typical PV panel is glass and aluminum – both common and easy-to-recycle materials.

However, navigating the recycling process for solar equipment can be complex. Waste Management services play a crucial role in facilitating the proper disposal and recycling of PV panels, ensuring that valuable materials are recovered and diverted from landfills. By leveraging the expertise and infrastructure provided by Waste Management services, individuals and organizations can contribute to the circular economy of solar energy, maximizing resource efficiency and minimizing environmental impact.

SEIA has created a national PV recycling member-based program that aggregates the services offered by recycling vendors and PV manufacturers, making it easier to select a cost-effective and environmentally responsible end-of-life management solution. At Lightsource bp, that means we can confidently utilize PV recycling facilities that have been fully vetted by SEIA – with the assurance that the panels will be processed here in the U.S., and that the facilities strive for maximum material recovery and second-life usage. With the industry working to optimize the recovery of materials in a PV panel, decades from now when today’s solar panels have reached their end-of-life, we anticipate even more advanced, affordable recycling methodologies to be available.

Learn more at the SEIA website:

https://www.seia.org/initiatives/recycling-end-life-considerations-photovoltaics

https://www.seia.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/SEIA-EOL-Considerations-PV-Factsheet-May2019.pdf

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