Photo voltaic panels are so sturdy and work for such a very long time that you could be by no means have thought-about what to do with them when one breaks or the array lastly stops producing energy. However nothing lasts ceaselessly – and if you end up questioning the best way to get rid of photo voltaic panels, don’t simply head for the dump. There could also be a greater choice: recycling.
In the case of recycling photo voltaic panels, the “why” is fairly apparent. As a result of they produce electrical energy with out emitting air pollution or greenhouse gases, they’re synonymous with environmental stewardship – so recycling photo voltaic panels is definitely preferable to sending them to a landfill.
However can photo voltaic panels be recycled? When most of us take into consideration recycling, we predict when it comes to plastic containers, glass bottles, and cardboard packing containers – not massive manufactured items. Whereas photo voltaic panels aren’t as simply recyclable as a glass bottle – which will be reused for a similar objective with a minimal power enter – most are constructed with simply recyclable supplies like aluminum (the body) and glass (the face). The inner supplies (copper wiring, valuable metals, and even the silicon within the PV cells themselves) have recycling worth as properly, for issues like electronics and even new photo voltaic panels.
Photo voltaic Panel Recycling Firms
So recycling photo voltaic panels is a good suggestion and is feasible to do. However the place? The unlucky fact is that corporations with amenities to truly recycle photo voltaic panels are usually not widespread and municipal recycling packages don’t settle for them as a result of their bodily dimension and the labor prices concerned with breaking them down into their element components. However some personal photo voltaic recycling corporations do exist, and are listed on SolarRecycle.org. Many additionally recycle inverters and deep cycle batteries too.
As of Could 2022, photo voltaic panel recycling corporations are solely working in 18 U.S. states. As a result of modules are so long-lasting and sturdy, and since they’ve solely really change into mainstream over the past 25 years or so, the availability of useless PV for recycling simply isn’t that prime. However as increasingly panels presently in service age and degrade, and because the demand for valuable metals continues to extend worldwide, the business of harvesting helpful supplies out of outdated photo voltaic panels is poised to develop. We’re hopeful that may result in expanded entry to photo voltaic system gear recycling choices throughout the U.S. and the world.
To be taught extra in regards to the photo voltaic panel recycling course of and the businesses that presently provide it in america, go to SolarRecycle.org. Along with being a photo voltaic recycling firm database, additionally they record corporations that settle for functioning, used photo voltaic gear donations for re-commissioning in underserved communities and record corporations that purchase and promote used photo voltaic gear.
If recycling your outdated photo voltaic panels isn’t possible and also you’ve received to take them to the dump, you would possibly contemplate repurposing one or two of them right into a espresso desk or storage workbench to memorialize them for all of the electrical energy they gave you over their lengthy life – and to maintain them out of the waste stream for an additional a number of a long time.
Photo voltaic Panel Convention Desk by ToddDuvallDesign, accessible on Etsy
Lead Acid Battery Recycling
Photo voltaic batteries age and degrade, too – and extra rapidly than panels. Recycling lead acid batteries after they’re faraway from service is vital for a couple of causes. First, the concentrated lead contained in them is poisonous to folks and animals, and a public well being and security risk if allowed to enter the soil or groundwater. Second, the sulfuric acid from these batteries is very corrosive and emits extremely flammable hydrogen fuel.
Whether or not or not your state has rules on the best way to get rid of lead acid batteries (most do; test the Battery Council Worldwide’s web site in your state’s legal guidelines), it’s best to by no means discard them in your family trash, take them to a landfill, or incinerate them.
Thankfully, it’s a lot simpler to recycle lead acid batteries than photo voltaic panels as a result of so many extra locations settle for them. As with most issues, a fast web seek for lead acid battery recycling close to you is a superb place to begin. For those who’re having hassle discovering a handy place to take them, Battery Recyclers of America will come choose them up for a payment. They may even do pickups in distant off-grid areas.
Corrosion from sulfuric acid on a lead acid battery terminal
Lithium Battery Recycling
Among the many many benefits of lithium ion batteries over lead acid batteries in renewable power methods is the truth that they include fewer poisonous supplies (the truth is essentially the most generally used form, lithium iron phosphate/LFP batteries, don’t include any poisonous supplies in any respect). However all lithium batteries ought to nonetheless be recycled as a substitute of thrown into the rubbish. They include valuable metals (most notably lithium itself) which are in excessive demand for an rising variety of shopper merchandise. Mining “new” lithium from the earth is an costly, time-consuming, and pollution-emitting course of, so it’s vital we attempt to reuse the lithium already “in service”.
Keep in mind the “cut back, reuse, recycle” environmental safety slogan? Lithium batteries’ excessive power density reduces the variety of batteries (and due to this fact the quantity of uncooked supplies) wanted to retailer power. Some lithium batteries – mostly these used to energy electrical automobiles – will be reused in much less energy-intensive purposes after their capability drops too low for continued EV use. This “second life” lithium battery market is small however poised to develop. And for these with out a lot “second life” worth, lithium battery recycling amenities are completely happy to interrupt them down to reap the lithium and different valuable metals inside – and likewise the plastic from their exteriors.
Battery Recyclers of America gives pickup service for recycling all types of batteries, together with lithium batteries, however test regionally first to see if lithium battery recycling in your outdated batteries is obtainable close by for cheaper.