Solar Panel Recycling in the US — A Looming Issue That Could Harm Industry Growth and Reputation

12-3-2020, PV Magazine, Eric Wesoff and Becky Beetz

Key Takeaways:

  • Landfills are not green; cables and aluminum frames are generally removed but the remainder is stent to a landfill
  • High value materials such as silicone, silver and copper, for the most part, are currently not being recycled in the US
  • Solar panels are not currently manufactured for disassembly and landfill is not green
  • Typically, $1.25-$1.75 worth of aluminum scraps are recycled and the rest goes to a landfill
  • It currently costs $20-$30 to recycle a panel vs. $1 – $2 to send it to a landfill
  • Utility scale solar facilities repower at year 12 and receive a new investment tax credit. Upgrading panels before their useful life will increasingly apply to commercial solar rooftops and residential installations as well
  • Bloomberg estimates around 26,000 tons of PV panels will end up as waste this year in the US
  • Suggestion for the DOE to spearhead legislation for PV waste similar to earlier electronic waste legislation