Beth Buczynski on February 23, 2011
A European company helps solar manufacturers consider the environmental impacts of all stages of the product life cycle.
The solar power industry is booming. Reports indicate that solar energy hasincreased by 70 percent worldwide, and continues to grow. Solar panels, films and other renewable energy-producing technology has such “clean and green” connotations it’s hard to believe any part of the industry could have a negative impact on the environment. But unless PV producers close the loop, both money and precious energy is wasted.
One company is working to help the photovoltaic industry make good on its commitment to truly clean energy by setting up a voluntary take back and recycling program for end-of-life-modules and to take responsibility for PV modules throughout their entire value chain.
Based in Belgium, PV Cycle works to develop better recycling technology and collection methods to minimize the environmental impacts measured on a life-cycle basis, minimize the associated costs, and maximize the recovery of materials for use in new products.
Solar products are designed to be very durable (around 25 years), but depending on weather conditions or unforeseeable events, some will eventually need to be replaced. Solar panels and other pieces contain valuable materials that can be recovered and reused in either new PV modules or other new products.
Just like many recycling sites you’re familiar with, PV Cycle’s website includes a search tool in which solar contractors and manufacturers can input their location, and find collection points for old panels (none in the U.S. so far).
Since its creation in 2007, many companies around 85 percent of Europe’s PV market has voluntarily joined PV Cycle. The company hopes that by 2015, when significant numbers of PV modules will start to reach the end-of-life, they will have a solid program in place to provide take-back and recycling of end-of-life modules, financed by PV producers, consistent with the long-standing EU waste management goals of producer responsibility.
Although the U.S. trails the rest of the world in many areas of renewable energy technology, it’s encouraging to see that similar solar recycling initiative are being developed in America as well.
PV Recycling, an Arizona-based company founded in early 2009, is working to get systems and relationships with manufacturers in place now, so that when the first panels start to reach the end of their life cycle, collecting and recycling them will be a no-brainer.
Bottom Image Credit: PV Recycling