Australia must meet the challenges of End-of-Life treatment of solar photovoltaic PV modules in the coming years due to the rapid growth of solar during the last few decades.
PV waste flow estimates by Sustainability Victoria and Griffith University, show that approximately 100,000 tonnes of solar panels will be decommissioned and enter Australia’s waste stream by 2035. Another estimate from Macquarie University based on consistent annual growth shows this number could grow to 800,000 tonnes by 2047.
There is the possibility of a circular economy with End-of-Life treatment of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, however, there are also some practical challenges to overcome including:
- The need for a national approach to manage solar panel, inverter and battery lifecycles.
- The Australian PV recycling industry is still in its infancy, recycling processes vary and best practice solutions such as 100% materials recovery is yet to be achieved.
- It is difficult to find profitable business models when recycling volumes are still small so we are experiencing low recycle values – each solar panel yields $5 of materials when recycled (UniSA).
In October 2020, severe hailstorms across South-East Queensland caused extensive damage to PV panels in a 100 kW rooftop solar system at one of our aged care clients’ facility. Based on the level of damage the best course of action was to decommission and replace 76 panels.
Planet Ark Power partnered with PV Industries who had developed a unique solar panel recycling process that maximises the 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, said Jonathan Ruddick, CCO at Planet Ark Power.
“As more businesses are concerned with environmental waste and sustainability initiatives it was important for Planet Ark Power to explore the most recent breakthroughs in PV panel recycling solutions and to implement them in this project.”
“We see the time to start acting is right now and recycling the damaged panels was quite a breakthrough for the Planet Ark Power team.”
“We view the disposal process in a systematic and pre-planned way – it is an integral part of the product lifecycle and integral to our commercial projects. In time we expect to see better practices including the goal of 100% recycling of materials and an improved financial return on investment. We are committed to sustainable business practices and this project has helped us to honour our commitment to preserving the environment in which we operate.”
Choose Planet Ark Power for your solar project, start with a free energy assessment.