“Research and development priorities for silicon photovoltaic module recycling to support a circular economy”
In the quest for transitioning to renewable energies, solar panels are becoming ubiquitous. From residential to mass-scale facilities, the projection is that by 2050 there’ll be more than 108 (that is 100 million) tonnes of accumulated waste derived from solar panels.
Recycling them is therefore of great importance to achieving a circular economy, which is one of the 10 actions we should undertake regarding climate change
. However, silicon-based solar panels are complex products designed to last around 30 years, which poses several challenges on how to extract the most value from the components.
This perspective paper does not give specific answers but it stresses the need to develop a long-term research agenda focused on improving the recycling processes associated with solar panels. There is a lot of room for improvement along the value chain of silicon, and many of the components used in the manufacture (such as tin, lead, silver, and copper).