Improving the Life Cycle of Solar Panels

Overview

In October 2020, severe hailstorms across South-East Queensland caused extensive damage to solar PV panels in a 100 kW rooftop solar system at one of our aged care clients’ facility.

The level of damage was so severe that 76 panels had to be removed and decommissioned. Rather than divert the damaged panels to landfill a conscientious decision was made to send the solar panels to an accredited recycling centre.

Photo provided by PV Industries

Challenge

At the time, damaged solar PV panels in Queensland would usually go straight into the e-waste landfill*.

However, Planet Ark Power identified this as an ideal opportunity to explore the most recent breakthroughs in PV panel recycling solutions to see what was possible and to support our client’s environmental sustainability initiatives.

* There are different regulations for solar PV panels in each state and territory.

Solution

We chose to partner with PV Industries who had developed a unique solar panel recycling process that maximises recovery of quality of recovered materials. Their approach is based on circular economy principles, prioritising high value recovery pathways and with all recycling occurring in Australia, supporting industry growth and local jobs creation.

The damaged panels which until then were kept at our Engorrea facility in Brisbane, were collected by PV Industries and transported to the recycling centre in Auburn, NSW.

Result

PV Industries partnered with Planet Ark Power to recover approximately 80% of the glass, aluminium, and copper from the panels – saving 1.8 tonnes of e-waste that was initially set for landfill.

PV Industries has plans to improve their processes to recover up to 100% of materials, thereby increasing the volume of materials to be repurposed.

To learn more about PV Industries, visit their website at https://www.pvindustries.com.au

Planet Ark Power Icon - Solar PV System
76 Solar Panels Recycled
Planet Ark Power Icon - CO2e Savings

1.8 tonnes e-waste saved from landfill

Photo provided by PV Industries
Photo provided by PV Industries

With current projections by Sustainability Victoria indicating that over 100,000 tonnes of solar panels are set to enter Australia’s waste stream by 2035, Planet Ark Power is committed to more sustainable business practices including continuous improvement in recycling materials including solar PV panels, inverters and racking.

Despite the small cost incurred, recycling the damaged panels was a real breakthrough for us as it helped us to honour our commitment to preserving the environment in which we operate — it is also the socially responsible thing to do.

Jonathan Ruddick, Chief Commercial Officer, Planet Ark Power.