As the world aims to be cleaner and greener, initiatives are undertaken to achieve these objectives, especially through the use of solar energy. Recycling solar panels can also be done in environmentally-friendly ways. When the solar module cannot function anymore, it can go into the recycling bin. Recycling solar panels parts is an industry gaining popularity. This has mostly been seen, especially through the formation of the PV cycle. This movement, initiated by many photovoltaic companies, has been encouraging the recycling of old solar panels. However, what really happens to old solar panels during recycling?
Recycling of materials made of silicon
Solar panels are made of silicon, glass and other materials. Parts of the solar panels made of silicon get recycled. In fact, almost 90% of materials from old solar panels can be recycled to make new ones. The recycling process starts manually where junction boxes, aluminum frames and various parts are taken apart one by one. After crushing down the old solar modules, glass, plastics, silicon and other metals are separated and taken to different processing plants. Glass are readily accepted by glass foam or car manufacturing industries. The silicon parts are returned to make more solar panels. With this recycling process, you could yield almost 85% of the initial weight of the panel. Talk about making money out of trash.
Recycling for non-silicon materials
What about the non-silicon parts from old solar panels? Well, they are also removed one by one and crushed. The goal here is to remove as many semiconductors in the old solar panels as possible. This is mostly done in the cadmium telluride modules. The process may also involve the use of chemical baths to separate as much materials as possible. Most private companies use the chemical baths method to squeeze out as much cash as possible from old solar panels. This process is designed to recover about 95% of glass and possibly 90% of semiconductors embedded in the old parts.
The process of recycling has been there since 2007 with the initiation of the PV cycle as stated above that was to involve both people and the companies making panels to help out in the recycling process in Europe. Most panel manufacturers have committed to eco-friendly practices in their businesses.