We all know solar panels come with heaps of environmental benefits, such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the demand for fossil fuels, but what happens to your panels when they need to be taken down or replaced?  

There have been concerns about how the production of solar panels will contribute to the already abundant amount of waste being accumulated in many of our landfills. We understand being environmentally conscious needs to be at the forefront of our minds at all times and not only while the panels are being used. With new technology developing every year, the solar industry is committed to making sure that solar panels do not become an environmental burden after their life is over.

Solar panels can currently be recycled and there are special facilities dedicated to recycling old solar panels. Since solar has picked up a lot of traction in recent years and panels naturally have a long life span of up to 30 years, it’s still important for us to think ahead. Improvements are always being made to recycling technology and we’re excited to see new recycling plants popping up every year all over the world. 

How Are Solar Panels Recycled?

Referenced from: https://cedco-op.com/2022/01/14/recycling-and-solar/

The main components of both silicon and thin-film solar panels, such as glass, aluminum and plastic, can all be reused and recycled. One of the current biggest hurdles of recycling panels is loosening the adhesive for the polymer layers, which protects the panels from outside weather conditions. This removal process usually requires high temperatures and special equipment. 

The recycling process can be complicated, but most materials in solar panels can be reused. The aluminum will first need to be removed from the frame and junction box. The glass and silicon are then separated along a conveyor belt with the use of thermal, mechanical and chemical processes. Small plastics can also be evaporated through thermal processing at 500 degrees Celsius. Finally, the silicon cells and any other specialty metals such as silver, copper and lead can be separated and purified with the help of electrical and chemical techniques. 

With the industry projected to grow substantially over the next decade, the commitment to recycling is also a necessity. Solar cell manufacturers are bound by law to fulfil specific legal requirements and recycling standards to make sure that solar panels do not negatively impact the environment. 

How Does Polaron Help Remove your Panels?

At Polaron, we understand the relationship with our customers is a long one, and we want to be here at every step of your solar journey. When the time comes to retire your panels, we’ll help guide you in what options are available at the time to make the process as easy as possible.

With improvements being made to the recycling process every year, it’s hard to say what the landscape of removing and recycling solar panels will be like when your panels reach the end of their lifespan. However, with more solar-specific recycling facilities being built, we’re hopeful that Canada will have a few facilities of our own in the near future to help simplify the process even more. As of now, you could remove your old panels with Polaron at a fee or go through a third party.

Sources

Recycling: A Solar Panel's Life after Death | GreenMatch

Recycling and solar - CED Co-op