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with solar PV recycling The potential of materials recovered from end-of-life solar PV panels could exceed US$15 billion (78 million tonnes) globally by 2050, according to a report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA-PVPS).


he global solar photovol-

increasing the security of future PV supply

would require: the adoption of effective, PV-

taic (PV) boom currently

or other raw-material-dependent products.

specific waste regulation; the expansion of

underway will represent a

“Global installed PV capacity reached

existing waste management infrastructure to

significant untapped busi-

222 GW at the end of 2015 and is expected

include end-of-life treatment of PV panels;

ness opportunity as de-

to further rise to 4500 GW by 2050. With

and the promotion of ongoing innovation in panel waste management.

commissioned solar panels

this tremendous-capacity growth will come an

enter the waste stream in the years ahead,

increase in waste associated with the sector,”

“Experience with electronic waste tells us

according to the ‘End-of-Life Management:

said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z Amin.

that developing technological and regulatory

Solar Photovoltaic Panels’ report released

“This brings about new business opportu-

systems for efficient, effective and afford-

by IRENA and the IEA-PVPS.

nities to ‘close the loop’ for solar PV panels

able end-of-life management requires long

The report includes a projection of PV

at the end of their lifetime. To seize these

lead times,” said Stefan Nowak, chairman of

panel waste volumes to 2050 and highlights

opportunities, however, preparations for the

IEA-PVPS. “This timely report can be used

that recycling or repurposing solar PV panels

surge in end-of-life material should begin now.

by public and private sector institutions to

at the end of their roughly 30-year lifetime

“With the right policies and enabling

anchor the necessary investments in technol-

can unlock a large stock of raw materials

frameworks in place, new industries that

ogy and policy research and development and

and other valuable components. It estimates

recycle and repurpose old solar PV panels

supporting analysis to unlock the significant

that PV panel waste, comprising mostly glass,

will drive considerable economic value crea-

recoverable value in end-of-life panels.

could total 78 million tonnes globally by 2050.

tion and will be an important element in the

“Responsible life-cycle management is

If fully injected back into the economy, the

world’s transition to a sustainable energy

an imperative for all PV technologies — the

value of the recovered material could exceed

future,” added Amin.

socio-economic and environmental benefits

US$15 billion by 2050. This potential material

The report suggests that addressing

which can potentially be unlocked through

influx could produce 2 billion new panels or

growing solar PV waste, and spurring the

end-of-life processes and policies for this

be sold into global commodity markets, thus

establishment of an industry to handle it,

waste stream in the future should be seen as an opportunity today to start extending the photovoltaic value chain,” added Nowak. In most countries PV panels fall under the classification of ‘general waste’, but the European Union (EU) was the first to adopt PV-specific waste regulations, which include PV-specific collection, recovery and recycling targets. The EU’s directive requires all panel producers that supply PV panels to the EU market (wherever they may be based) to finance the costs of collecting and recycling end-of-life PV panels put on the market in Europe. The report is available for download at from IRENA.

42 Sustainability Matters - Aug/Sep 2016

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Sustainability Matters Aug/Sep 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Aug/Sep 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...