Solar energy has undoubtedly become one of the most popular alternative sources of renewable energy. Clean energy helps build local economies, provides alternate options for energy in developing countries and helps reduce greenhouse emissions. Although these solar-powered panels require little maintenance, they are not a permanent solution. Solar panels cease to be efficient after the end of their lifespan.
In 2021, solar energy accounted for nearly 3.6% of global electricity generation, with China leading the helm, followed by the United States. Because of such high numbers, millions of solar panels have been installed & manufactured over the past two decades, each panel with an average lifespan of around 25 to 30 years.
As with any hardware, the lifespan of solar photovoltaic cells is finite, meaning hundreds of panels are being shredded and headed for the landfill every year. Currently, research & steps are being taken to ensure that this doesn’t contribute to toxic trash and that our landfills don’t overflow with the large panels. The International Renewable Energy Agency projects that nearly 80 million tonnes of solar panels are estimated to reach the end of their life by 2050, which means the time is ticking.
In theory, solar panels can be recycled. While recycling potentially large panels & transporting them is not financially viable, it is more economical to take out their silicon and silver parts to reuse them for future solar panels instead of making everything from scratch. This is useful to provide manufacturers with a steady supply of inventory instead of mining elements that would prove even more uncertain & dangerous down the road.
While it is not a Federal mandate in most countries, it is up to the manufacturers and the country in return to begin thinking about recovering valuable raw materials that could bring down the cost of production & supply even further. It is time to work globally on actively trying to keep these items out of landfills & continue working on increasing their lifespan.