NGRE was interested to see the opening of the world’s first factory dedicated to solar panel recycling in France last month (see https://www.rosi-solar.com/2008-2/) and believes the UK solar PV industry must act now.
The facility, in Grenoble, is owned by specialist solar recycling company, ROSI, which hopes to eventually, be able to extract and re-use 99% of a panel’s components once it reaches “end-of-life”.
NGRE – We Need to Act Now
Managing Director of NGRE, Greg Bishop, said: “Recycling panels has not been a huge issue in the UK up to now, as not many have come to, or are coming to, their end of life, given that most operate at more than 80% efficiency even after 25 years. And the other great news is that panels hardly ever fail.
“It is, however, an important issue that the industry in the UK should get a hold of now, particularly in light of the large growth in solar installations we’re seeing and will continue to see.”
UK – 30,000 Tonnes of Solar Waste by 2030
The number of solar panels on UK rooftops is increasingly rapidly. Last year 130,596 were installed which is almost the same as that seen in 2019, 2020 and 2021 put together.
The UK Government is also keen to encourage the uptake of solar PV, with the green technology being a key part of its future energy strategy and Net Zero ambitions. In April 2022, it published an updated British Energy Security Strategy in which it set an ambitious goal to increase solar capacity to 70GW by 2035, five times what it is at present.
Given this growth, the International Renewable Energy Agency predicts that the UK will face at least 30,000 tonnes of solar waste by 2030.
We’re Going to Need Many More Facilities
Greg said: “I know there are a number of facilities in the UK that can recycle solar panels but we’re going to need many more and much larger operations and to achieve 99% plus in terms of recycling of a panel’s components.
“One of the major reasons people are turning to solar energy, along with reducing their energy spend, is for its environmental credentials, to reduce their carbon footprint, and so they will expect their systems to be disposed of efficiently, not just piled up if the volume cannot be dealt with.”
Recycling Essential – Environmentally and to Maintain Production
Greg added: “Recycling is essential to the industry, to avoid adding to landfill and to reduce dependency on virgin raw materials and the environmental impact of its extraction. But, importantly, bringing re-used materials back into the production process will also help avoid production delays as demand for rarer materials increases along with the world’s appetite for solar.”
As well as the glass fronts and aluminium frames, recycling can recover precious materials such as copper, silver and silicon to be used in new panels.
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