Can Solar Panels Be Recycled?

Most of the materials used to make solar panels are either recyclable or reusable. In practice, recycling solar panels involves more than just disassembling them and reusing the parts. 

However, today’s recycling methods are not particularly effective, and recovering the materials frequently costs more than making a new panel. 

Nonetheless, there are compelling reasons to maximize solar panel recycling, including economic savings, reducing the environmental impact of production emissions, and preventing the disposal of hazardous e-waste. 

Solar panel recycling is becoming a more significant component of the solar energy business due to solar technology’s quick advancement.

Why Recycling Solar Panels Is Crucial

Experts say that by 2050, the world’s garbage from solar panels may make up 10% of all electronic waste. Currently, 90% of solar panels are disposed of in landfills, where they eventually release hazardous chemicals into the soil and water supplies, much like all e-waste.

Recycling solar panels provides advantages for the economy as well as the environment. 

How to Recycle Solar Panels

Silicone-based panels are frequently crushed or shredded. And depending on the type of substance, the materials are mechanically separated and transferred to various recycling operations. 

In some circumstances, panels go through a similar mechanical separation process. But to separate the polymer layer from the glass and semiconductor material, they must undergo a delamination chemical separation process. 

Glass, silicon, insulated wire, copper, silver, and other materials can all be mechanically or chemically separated from one another and recycled. It is more difficult to recycle the parts of a cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panel than for silicon-based solar panels. 

Alternative recycling methods include heating, burning the panel’s polymers, or disassembling the parts. A long steel blade heated to 392 degrees F slices through the panel to separate the glass from the solar cells. 3

Continual innovations aim to streamline the recycling process and retrieve the purest resources. For instance, the French company Veolia separates silicon-based solar panel components for recycling.

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