Solar panels are in a period of rapid growth. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar energy has had an annual growth rate of 50% in the past decade and it is projected to continue growing. While solar panels are often considered to be sources of clean energy for 30+ years, their disposal requires some specialized processes.
What are solar panels made of?
Solar panels are composed of several photovoltaic cells (PV), which are made of silicon semiconductors. These solar cells are connected to one another and they work to produce electricity from sunlight.
There are several different kinds of solar panels, but most share the following basic materials:
Disposing of Solar Panels
Methods of Disposal
Because many of the solar panel components are recyclable, taking the panels apart and individually recycling the pieces is one of the best options for waste management. Glass, metals, and some of the wiring can easily be recycled. The silicon cells can also be recycled by companies that specialize in melting them down and reusing some of their components.
While most parts of solar panels can be recycled, the process of decomposition can be complex and expensive. This is the main reason that companies may choose to move away from recycling.
Regulations on the disposal of PVs vary by state, but they do contain hazardous components.
Waste is considered hazardous if it is one of the EPA’s Listed Wastes or if it is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic (Characteristic waste). Pieces of photovoltaic cells most often exhibit the toxic characteristic, which means that they are harmful when ingested or absorbed by organic entities.
For more information on how we can assist your business in disposing of your solar panels or other wastes in a way that minimizes negative impacts for all stakeholders, contact Clean Management.