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The Downside of Solar Energy

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

As solar energy sources expand, used photovoltaic panels are creating a growing waste problem - Could recycling solve the problem?

The solar economy continues to grow, with over a half-terawatt already installed around the world generating clean electricity.

But what happens to photovoltaic (PV) modules at the end of their useful life?

Although PV lifespans are measured in decades, the industry ships millions of tons each year, and that number will continue to rise with industry growth.

Total e-waste (including computers, televisions, and mobile phones) is around 45 million metric tons annually. By comparison, PV-waste in 2050 will be twice that figure.

Researchers are having to explore global solar waste management solutions as a result of concerns over exposure to toxic materials, increased disposal costs and overcapacity at landfills, which are usually managed by underfunded local governments.

At the same time, demand for everything from sand, to rare and precious metals continues to rise.

Whilst PV only supplies around 1% of global electricity, photovoltaics already relies on 40% of the global tellurium supply, 15% of the silver supply, a large portion of semiconductor quality quartz supply. Plus, smaller segments of the indium, zinc, tin, and gallium supplies.

Embracing circular economy concepts will be critical to the industry’s future.

For more information, please contact Ben Hastings at Toro Recruitment.

Mob: 07854 306 218




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