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Dead Solar Panels
Solar Panels have a life span of about 20 to 30 years. They help our environment in that time period by reducing the alternatives which would increase our carbon footprint. However, to prevent dark clouds from forming overhead due to the coming waste management issue with old solar panels that are decommissioned, we need a plan toward an efficient infrastructure to recycle up to tens of millions of solar panels.
America has over two million solar installations ranging from roof tops on homes and businesses to rack systems on the ground in solar farms. Many older systems are at the decommissioning stage. Currently, America does not have efficient solar panel recycling policies. The U.S. actually has no national policy.
Europe has policies for solar recycling programs because the Dual Systems laws, which have been in place for years have the manufacturers take back their products to recycle. In July of 2014, I wrote a GTG Blog post on this called:
eRecycling and eWaste. Here in the U.S. the homeowner is on their own, especially with older systems that do not have monitoring abilities in place to inform the contractor or homeowner when the solar panels need to undergo decommissioning.
Solar panels are 99% recyclable since they are made up of glass, aluminum, plastic, copper, lead, gallium, cadmium and silicon. However, the process to recycle solar panels is very involved. Dissembling all parts and separating some of them with melting, lasers, a solvent, cutting or a stream of electrons to selectively break apart components on a surface maybe necessary. Despite all that, great recycling opportunities are coming and an economic upside can come from recycling solar panels. Some estimates state that there will be a 15 Billion dollar business waiting for the new solar recycling industry by 2050.
The time to start is now, so we don't find ourselves burying dead solar panels in landfills.
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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