Recycling Dead Solar panels
Solar panels are great at harvesting energy from the sun, but they don’t last forever. They can get damaged or smashed, or simply age out. Most panels are rated for a service life of 25 years. The solar boom really took off in the early 2000s, and has gathered steam ever since. That means that we’ll soon face an avalanche of solar panels that are ready for retirement.
Waste management company Veolia has also been working in this area, running a commercial-scale plant in France since 2018, and a newer test project in Germany this year. Similar to most processes, the wiring, cable panel, and aluminium frame are all removed, in this case by robots. Then, the PV panel itself is chopped into small tablets, ground up, and the glass separated from the metal content with an eddy-current separator. This allows for efficient recovery of the raw materials, rather than simply shredding the whole panel and mixing all the precious metals and silicon up with the glass. Veolia hopes to continue developing its process to the point where it can reliably recover high-purity silver and silicon from the panels, to be reused in the production of new panels. The company hopes to step up its operations to the point where it can recycle all solar panels that are being decommissioned in France.Read More