From the Article
BY ANNE FISCHER
The US Department of Energy (DOE) today released an action plan to enable the safe and responsible handling of solar photovoltaic (PV) end-of-life (EOL) materials. In order for solar to truly be a “clean” technology, it is imperative to have a plan for the disposal of solar panels at the end of their useful life. The current lifetime for solar panels is about 30 years, and while the solar industry grew slowly for several decades, about 70% of existing solar energy systems were deployed within the last five years.
The International Renewable Energy Agency forecasts that the cumulative end-of-life waste from PV in the US in 2030 is projected to be between 0.17 and 1 million tons. For perspective, there are 200 million tons of solid waste, excluding recycled and composted materials, generated in the United States each year.
Although 95% of a cadmium telluride (CdTe) and silicon (Si) solar module is recyclable, the current cost to recycle solar modules is around $15-$45 per module, while the landfill fee is $1-$5 per module, not including transportation costs. Recycling processes that have been developed in the US for CdTe and Si solar modules also cost more than the value of materials obtained from recycling.
The US Department of Energy’s five-year plan aims to reduce the environmental impacts of solar panels at the end of life, plus cut in half the cost of recycling the panels.