According to The MIT Technology Review, the materials used in solar panels could be worth two billion dollars a year by 2050. The amount of abandoned cells reached 80 million metric tons. An analysis by Research and Markets predicts that the market for recycled solar panels and parts could grow by more than 18 percent a year and be worth more than $ 100 million by 2027.

This value with regulators can be used by manufacturers who redesign their products for greater recycling. Cheaper solar panels and increase their efficiency provide them with new opportunities. All of this leads to a higher probability that consumers will want to upgrade their panels before their 30-year life expires.


Waste from solar panels comes from both cells. And in those that have expired and from cells that were destroyed in natural disasters. In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed several solar installations in Puerto Rico. It produced tons of waste. The plates were broken by strong winds or flying debris, and many were torn out of the housing and became debris themselves.

The waste that was generated was difficult, not only because of its quantity, but also because it could not be disposed of in “normal” communal landfills. The danger is posed by toxic chemicals, which are used in the production of solar cells. Heavy metals, such as cadmium, can reach the environment through water.

To make matters worse, much of the e-waste of the United States was until recently exported to China, where low labor costs and limited environmental protection meant that some valuable materials were found by recycling. But the rest caused many birth defects. China, however, no longer accepts e-waste on the same scale, due to the environmental reaction to decarbonisation.

The solar cell mainly consists of materials such as glass and aluminum. These materials are easily recycled. For cells that have reached the end of their service life, direct reuse may even be possible. The rest is the flesh of the cell, materials that show a photovoltaic effect, in combination with semiconductors and other elements needed to extract useful electricity from them.

According to Waste Dive, solar panel recycling currently costs $ 20 to $ 30. And the recovered materials are worth only three to four dollars, which creates a significant obstacle to keeping them out of landfills. Some companies are focusing on reuse – recovering functional panels and selling them in markets that cannot afford new ones.

One problem is that regulators sometimes classify solar panels as hazardous waste, which adds significant recycling costs. Another is that many solar panels are not designed to be recyclable.

By the way, the European Union requires manufacturers to produce solar cells that are 85 percent recyclable. Similar regulations do not exist in the United States.

E2 portal (Renewable Energy World)

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