Recyclable Solar Panels?

While many individual components of a solar panel can be recycled, the ultimate environmentally friendly goal is to make the process circular, which means old solar components could be processed to be used in the manufacture of new solar components. One way to keep solar panels out of landfills is through panel reuse, either by direct reuse or after refurbishment, affording a second life generating clean energy at a different location. Another is recycling individual materials including glass (75% of a panel’s makeup), the aluminum frame, copper wire, and the plastic junction box. Other materials such as silver, internal copper, possible lead or cadmium are not easily recyclable, and are poor candidates for landfills. The good news is that researchers are hard at work seeking to create fully recyclable solar modules. A team in Germany announced recently that it had produced solar cells from 100% recycled silicon. Another team in the Netherlands is developing a full-size, recyclable solar module which they claim enables complete recycling without com-promising its current useful life. For more information, click here.