Tech News

Solar panels are a pain to recycle. These companies are trying to fix it.

Expanding solar energy production is key to reducing emissions around the world. Globally, solar panels are being created 720 terawatt-hours the amount of energy in 2019, about 3% of the world’s electricity generation. And roughly 46 million metric tons to make a solar panel.

About 8 million tons of solar panels that will be dismantled by 2030 could be stored worldwide. By 2050, that number could be reached 80 million. Recycling these panels could provide a new source for materials that would otherwise have to be extracted (probably or when they are not hazardous). exploiter working conditions), making the sun a more enduring piece of the clean energy puzzle.

What is on a solar panel?

The solar panels are distributed like a sandwich with cells in the middle. About 90% of commercial solar panels use silicon as a semiconductor, which converts light into electricity. Thin metal strips, usually silver, run across the surface of the silicon crystals in each cell and carry electricity to the copper cables in the panel.

Solar cells are located in a protective barrier, usually a transparent plastic called EVA. Another layer of glass goes to the top, and different types of plastic, like PET, cover the back. Everything is surrounded by an aluminum frame.

This layered construction protects the cells from the elements as they pass through sunlight, but it can be difficult to deconstruct them when the panels have reached full life.

Second life

Some companies are trying to upgrade or reuse panels that have lost their effectiveness, or at least rescue some of the components. Reuse is the easiest and cheapest way to “recycle” panels; it requires the least processing and requires the highest price.

A panel may cost about $ 55, and a used panel may resell for about $ 22. Or, used panel components can be sold for up to $ 18 in total Meng Tao, A professor of engineering at Arizona State University and founder of a startup for recycling solar panels called TG Companies.

Although some vendors offer used panels for residential sales to customers, they do not offer much price savings. The panels make up at most half of the cost of a residential solar installation, taking into account the rest of the equipment and permits. The panels used don’t generate as much electricity, considering the money saved isn’t worth it.

Used panels that cannot be sold are destined for landfill or recycling. In the absence of a federal order, Washington they have recently exceeded their recycling requirements for manufacturers, and other states are considering doing the same. The EU, on the other hand, needs to collect and recycle the solar panels used by manufacturers and fund research into end-of-life solutions for the technology they produce.

About 8 million tons of solar panels that will be dismantled by 2030 can be accumulated.

Some waste facilities can recycle solar panels using mechanical methods. Most are extracted from an aluminum structure and grind all glass, silicon, and other metals into a mixture called a glass container that can be sold for building materials or other industrial applications.

But the street isn’t worth much, about $ 3 in exchange for the value of the mix. Tao says it is not clear if there will be any buyers who would be affected by recycling more solar panels. Being able to extract pure and valuable materials can make recycling more profitable.

In 2018, Veolia, a waste management company based in Paris, said it was the first recycling line specifically developed for recycling solar panels. Located in Rousset, France, the plant also uses a mechanical recycling process, although it is designed for solar panels, with more components being used separately for facilities that use general electronic waste recycling equipment. But some companies are betting that other methods, such as thermal and chemical processes, will be even more efficient.

Extracting old panels

French startup ROSI Solar, founded in 2017, recently announced plans to build a new recycling plant in Grenoble, France. Yun Luo, CEO of ROSI, said the company has developed a process to extract silver, silicon and other high-value materials from used panels. The plant is expected to open before the end of 2022 with a contract with Soren, the French trade association.

Soren is also working with a French logistics company called Envie 2E Aquitaine, which will try to find other uses for the abandoned solar panels. If the panels don’t work, the company will remove the aluminum frame and glass for recycling before moving to a ROSI, Luo says.

ROSI is based on the recovery of silver and solar silicon, as these two materials account for more than 60% of the cost of a panel. The company uses a proprietary chemical process in the remaining layers, aimed at removing tiny silver wires that transmit electricity through a working solar panel.

Luo did not want to give details, but the company says it can recover almost all the silver in a new way, so it is easier to distinguish it from other metals, such as lead and tin. Luo says the company is also recovering enough silicon to be reused in new panels or EV batteries.

To be profitable, ROSI will need to recycle at least 2,000 to 3,000 tons of panels a year, Luo says. Soren expects to collect about 7,000 tons of panels by 2021, and that number is likely to double by 2025.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button