What happens to solar panels after 25 years.

Turning old solar panels into renewable opportunities – Monash Lens

Every few years we hear about advancements to solar technology, but to most solar home owners; solar is a one-time done type deal. Solar panels themselves have the highest expected life-span out of a solar system’s components, with an average of 25 years.

The question is what happens after those 25 years?

There are over two million Australian homes with solar PV systems, this is not even including the countless number of businesses, public spaces and solar farms. What happens to all those panels? Are we going to see another environmental crisis coming to the table?

We have time, for now…

As many have been adopting solar only in recent years, it is unlikely we won’t see any problems with solar panel waste until 2040-2050. Though as it stands, we may see over 60 million tons of waste from end-of-life solar panels and maybe more, this figure is 20 times the volume of waste caused by plastics consumed in Australia.

We also have to factor in the cost. Solar panels are largely recyclable, with minor amounts of toxic minerals that need to be disposed of, putting them in landfills is not advisable.

The Challenges to recycling solar panels

At present we can recycle about 90% of all materials in the same panel. It is important not to gloss over hazardous materials, and we will need to develop safe ways to dispose of them in the future, as we cannot simply toss them into landfill.

The cost of recycling is also an issue, which means there are some people and industries that will throw them away, rather than bother to recycle them.

The problem as of now is that there aren’t many places where you can recycle in Australia.

Reclaim PV is an recycling service based in Adelaide but services the whole of Australia. Offering collection, drop-off points and pick up from any site in the country. It costs just $10 (plus freight) to recycle a single panel.

Clive Fleming runs Reclaims PV, and urges homeowners to take advantage of these services to ensure their system does not end up in landfills. Mr Fleming said the most significant challenge right now was getting Australians to realise that these services exist.

“Homeowners do come about and pay for their panels to be recycled,” he said. “The biggest challenge is developing the network and making sure people know there’s actually a choice available to them other than landfill.”

The more people that do this, the more affordable it becomes. Facilities will soon be producing enough materials to simply break even and eventually the cost of recycling will completely evaporate. Eventually, it could become a free service – possibly even a social responsibility:

To make that happen, though, Australians have to decide to be more environmentally-mindful and think green.

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