Solar Module End-of-Life Options: Do You Have a Disposal Plan in Place?

Solar power continues to grow in popularity, and manufacturers have continued to expand their production of panels to meet this ever-growing demand.

Its standard practice to replace malfunctioning, inefficient, or aging solar panels with newer models.

When your solar modules have lost efficiency and are no longer performing at the required levels, do you have a disposal plan? 

In this article, we’ll be going over each of the potential end-of-life decisions that every solar panel owner will eventually have to make.

We’ll be summarizing the pros and cons of each end-of-life option, but if you want to know more about a specific method of disposal, we’ll be including links to our other articles where you can learn more. 

Introduction to Refurbishment

You should almost certainly include refurbishment in your solar panel’s disposal plan.

In recent years, refurbishment techniques have improved by leaps and bounds.

When the glass of a given solar panel isn’t cracked, the solar panel is almost always refurbishable.

This includes cases where the frame is bent, where electrical boxes are broken, and where diodes have gone bad. 

Refurbishers like FabTech have specialized in these advanced refurbishment techniques.

Technicians sort out the truly broken solar units then there is a payout for each solar panel that goes on to be refurbished.

Depending on the condition of your solar panels, this money can more than offset the costs of shipping and any recycling costs of your old or damaged solar panels. 

To read more about our advanced Refurbishment Processes, check out our article on determining if solar panels can be refurbished.

Introduction to Recycling

The second option to include in your solar disposal plan is recycling.

In some cases, solar panels are truly broken beyond repair.

(Think of a massive hail storm that breaks the glass on your solar panels.)

When your solar panels are broken, it’s important to have a recycler in mind. Companies like FabTech specialize in EPA compliant recycling. 

While recycling can be expensive, it’s important to include it in your plan.

Remember, in many cases, a  good percentage of solar modules are refurbishable.

These refurbishable solar modules can offset the costs of recycling. 

The recycling process is fairly complicated, but it involves processing the solar panels to separate the different materials of the panel itself (glass, silicon, wiring, etc).

These materials are then used in the production of new solar panels or other products. 

To read more about the recycling process, check out this article on solar panel recycling.

Introduction to Landfilling

An option that is becoming more rarely chosen is landfilling.

This unfortunate choice involves transporting your old solar panels to a landfill where none of the costs of shipping or installation can be offset by refurbishment and where the materials are left to waste amongst the trash. 

Solar panels can consist of several heavy metals, and other materials such as aluminum, silicon, lead, cadmium, copper, nickel, and tellurium.

Regulations involving these materials continue to roll out from the EPA.

If water runoff contained high enough concentrations of these heavy metals, it could be damaging to the health of the surrounding community. 

In 2018, a well-known home improvement retailer was fined $28 million for unlawful disposal of “hazardous wastes.”

This is not an isolated incident: in the past decade alone, six of the top ten US retailers have been fined over $100 million for hazardous waste violations. 

Conclusion

A disposal plan is an important tool for any solar manufacturer or solar site manager.

It’s best not to wait for the hailstorm or for the new shipment of solar panels to arrive before thinking of what to do with your old or malfunctioning solar modules. 

Due to advances in refurbishment techniques, the vast majority of old or malfunctioning solar panels can be repaired and refurbished.

This includes panels with bent frames, faulty diodes, or with unspecified issues. 

Because you get paid back for refurbishable solar panels, it’s a great idea to use a solar refurbisher like FabTech.

The money paid back can more than cover the costs of shipping and recycling.

We’d love to help you with your solar end of life disposal plan.

Contact us to learn more about our recycling and refurbishing options.

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