The market for solar panels grew more than sixty percent in the U.S, in just the past five years. But … with a useful life of two to three decades, what happens at the end of a solar panel’s life cycle?

Solar panel recycle image

In the U.S., most panels currently end up in landfills. Although they’ve passed a toxicity test for leaching, there is still risk because extreme conditions could cause materials to break down.

But Vasilis Fthenakis, a senior scientist with the Brookhaven National Laboratory, says the U.S. could follow the lead of the European Union, which has rules in place for solar panel recycling.

FTHENAKIS: “There is a lot of value and there are many benefits to recycling in addition to eliminating the possibility of end of life risks related to toxic materials.”

How do you responsibly handle a #solar panel at end of its life cycle? Click To Tweet

In addition to glass and aluminum, solar panels are made of metals that are not widely available. So recycling could save production costs. But the recycling itself is currently too expensive. So Fthenakis says without regulation and consumer pressure, it’s unlikely to be widely adopted.

So consumer demand will be important in the effort to ensure that even clean energy sources like solar are fully “green.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Pamela Memmott.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
The Value and Feasibility of Proactive Recycling
How Do You Recycle a Solar Panel?
End-of-life PV: then what? – Recycling solar PV panels
Overview of First Solar’s Module Collection and Recycling Program
Solar Panels & Their Toxic Emissions

Filed under: , ,