The Australian solar industry has grown exponentially over the past two decades, with more than 2m PV systems installed on residential rooftops. While PV solar systems are praised for its ability to provide a sustainable source of energy, there is a looming waste management issue that isn’t spoken about nearly as often.
Don't let your solar panels go to waste
Why You Should Recycle Your Old Solar Panels
What happens to the thousands of solar panels when they fail to perform or come to the end of their useful lives?
It’s estimated that 100,000 to 150,000 solar panels need replacing every year. By 2050, solar panel waste is projected to be over 900 thousand tons in Australia alone! It’s important for these panels to be recycled. Otherwise, the valuable resources that can be reused to make more solar panels will end up in the landfill and leach into the environment.
Solar panel recycling will help:
- conserve the supplies of the finite resources used to manufacture the panels
- provide the materials to be reused for producing new solar panels
Solar Panel Recycling with Ecoactiv
Ecoactiv is an advocate of clean energy. It is our mission to support the industry in taking back and recycling end-of-life solar panels across Australia. We have refined the solar panel recycling processes and have collection and dismantling centres in all major states, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Types of solar panels and equipment you can recycle
You can recycle any of the following types of panels and equipment with Ecoactiv: Monocrystalline Solar Panels, Polycrystalline Solar Panels, Thin-Film Solar Cells, Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell, Biohybrid Solar Cell, Solar Mounting Racks, Solar Mounting Frames, Inverters.
Not sure what type of solar panel you have? Don’t see what you want to recycle listed above? As long as it’s solar related equipment, we’ll help you recycle it!
Recycling condition of your solar panels or equipment
Depending on the solar panels you have, your system has a typical life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. The efficiency of your system will decline anywhere from 6 to 10 per cent in the first 10 years and slightly more the years’ after.
You can recycle your solar panel or solar equipment at any stage of life. Whether it’s in working condition or end of its life, we’re happy to take it off your hands.
Parts of your solar panel that can be recycled
Each solar panel has about 80 per cent of crystalline silicon that can be recovered through a refined recycling process. There are also other recyclable parts including electric junction boxes, glass and plastics, and aluminium frames and brackets.
What happens to your solar panels when you recycle with Ecoactiv?
Once we collect your solar panels, we then separate the solar panels to be recycled according to their type. There are two main types of categories, being silicon-based and thin film panels, and two recycling methods.
Silicon solar panel recycling process
- Your silicon panel will be disassembled to separate aluminium, glass and other parts. The metal parts can be reused for re-moulding cell frames and 95% of the glass can be reused for many different applications.
- The remaining parts will be treated at 500°C in a thermal processing unit to evaporate the plastic and leave behind the silicon cells.
- The silicon cells will be further processed to a state where it can be used to manufacture new silicon modules.
Thin film solar panel recycling process
- Your thin-film based panel will be put through a shredder. The remaining parts will consist of both solid and liquid materials.
- To separate the solids and liquids, a rotating screw will be used to drip the liquid into a container. The liquid goes through a precipitation and dewatering process.
- The resulting solid substances go through metal processing to completely separate the different semiconductor materials. On average, 95% of the semiconductor material is reused.
- The material goes through a rinsing process to remove any contamination. What is left behind is pure glass which is used for remanufacturing or products.