Solar Panel End-Of-Life is a Global Concern
By Justin Anderson
Solar panel end-of-life is a global concern. Unlike many global problems, we can prevent solar panels from becoming an environmental hazard. If panel owners know how to be prepared for end-of-life, we can avert a notable amount of waste.
As solar energy continues to rise in usage, the consequences of such an increase have become increasingly apparent. Estimates put solar panel sales rising about 40% per year within the past decade.
On the one hand, it’s terrific to watch clean energy become more efficient and available to everyone. Its great to observe the world economy slowly become less reliant on fossil fuels. So many possibilities come into fruition as we switch to greener and cleaner energy.
However, because of solar energy’s many good qualities, it can be easy to forget about a growing concern. It could have a global effect. That is solar panel end-of-life waste.
THE GROWING PROBLEM OF SOLAR PANEL WASTE
Here’s the heart of the issue. The solar waste recycling programs are expensive and unattractive to solar owners. They are not motivated to use them. If recycling doesn’t become easier, less expensive and more available, there will be a problem. The world won’t be able to handle the rising influx of panels. We could be approaching 80 million tons of solar waste as soon as 2050, if not sooner.
Despite being durable, solar panels do not last forever. The more we put into the world now, the more potential waste builds up with a time.
A solar panel’s lifespan maxes out at about 20-30 years. Since solar panels are outside all year round, they are potentially susceptible to weather and elemental damage from nature. There are many reasons for panels to come out of service before their expected life cycle as well.
We are currently injecting a beneficial product into the market without concern for the future waste problem.
WHAT WE’VE DONE BEFORE WITH OTHER WASTE STREAMS
This is not something we haven’t done before. Consider what would happen if we didn’t have enough recycling centers for plastic and cardboard? What if there was an expectation to take care of it yourself?
Think of how much would build up as the days and weeks went by. Think of how many resources turn to waste if you just decide to throw it all out. The world is already struggling to deal with garbage and waste, and solar panels will only add to this struggle.
But, cardboard boxes and plastic containers are incredibly cheap to make and involve standard, basic materials. Solar panels, on the other hand, are anything but simple to make. They require various materials: solar cells, crystals, glass, aluminum, and other precious metals and resources.
Solar panels can also directly harm the environment if not recycled properly. Their components are hard for nature to reclaim and contain toxins. Throwing away old solar panels is inefficient; it’s not safe, and it only adds to the world’s ever-growing waste problem.
We, not only as a country but as a world, must counter this in any way possible.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS FOR SOLAR PANEL END-OF-LIFE
Solar energy is a beautiful and essential resource and will only become relied upon increasingly in the future. The panels are not the problem here. How we care for them and what we do with them at the end is the issue.
Luckily, there are efforts to thwart solar panels from adding to our long list of future apocalypses.
Solar panels can be recycled cleanly and efficiently, but it’s a costly procedure right now. Finding ways to decrease this cost, therefore, can help convince more people to recycle.
You can easily see the global recycling progress as well, albeit in small ways! California made solar waste transportation cheaper and easier by reclassifying solar panels Universal Waste rather than Hazardous Waste. The E.U. added solar waste regulations, and anti-dumping laws are becoming common in several states and countries.
Other states and governments are also attempting other monetary solutions. Offering special tax breaks, incentivizing research into recycling methods, or mandating manufacturers to compensate the fees are a few examples.
MAKE SOLAR EASIER TO RECYCLE
Another way of reducing solar panels’ footprint on the world is to make them easier to recycle at their end-of-life. It’s a challenge to recycle solar panels today. Hopefully, manufacturers will design them with the end of life in mind.
EVERYONE CAN HELP
Yes, solar panel end-of-life is a global concern. But everyone can help. We can’t just depend upon government mandates or legislation to solve the problem fast enough. Companies developing solar projects can help by making the choice for recycling now. The more recycling is done, the faster the prices will come down. Solar panel reuse is also another solution for panels that can be fixed or repurposed. Companies taking the time to create a solar panel end-of-life plan, investigating solutions now, can also help to spread awareness and inspire other companies to do the same.
Fabtech Solar Solutions specializes in preparing for a panel’s end-of-life and helping solar panel owners keep the world clean and save money while doing it.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 480-813-7280 Ext 108 and ask for Janette Freeman.
There are plenty of options to consider, and we’re happy to help anyone and everyone with questions about solar panel end-of-life. Fabtech offers free quotes for anyone interested.
If you are interested in getting more information on end-of-life practices and news, check out our entire website at WWW.FABTECH.NET.