Recycled solar panels will bring value

01 July 2016

Decommissioned solar panels represent a significant untapped business opportunity, a new report says.

The report was released by UAE-headquartered International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA-PVPS).  

Irena is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.

The report, titled “End-of-Life Management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels”, is the first projection of PV panel waste volumes to 2050 and highlights that recycling or repurposing solar PV panels at the end of their roughly 30-year lifetime can unlock a large stock of raw materials and other valuable components.

The report estimates that PV panel waste, comprised mostly of glass, could total 78 million tonnes globally by 2050. If fully injected back into the economy, the value of the recovered material could exceed $15 billion by 2050. This potential material influx could produce two billion new panels or be sold into global commodity markets, thus increasing the security of future PV supply or other raw material-dependent products.

Adnan Z Amin, director general, Irena, said: “Global installed PV capacity reached 222 GW at the end of 2015 and is expected to further rise to 4,500 GW by 2050. With this tremendous capacity growth will come an increase in waste associated with the sector.”

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