Like any electronic object, solar panels have a limited lifespan. Even if for 30 or even 35 years they will run uninterruptedly, one day your panels will stop converting solar radiation into electricity. Then comes the question: what should I do with them? The answer is simple: recycling them!
THE PANELS ARE NOT ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: FALSE!
Solar panels are highly recyclable. The ones used by Younergy are up to 97% recyclable!
For several years, solar energy has been steadily growing. Ecological awareness, the need for autonomy, technological progress and the arrival of grid parity are factors that contribute to the growing demand. This is why many recycling facilities have been created to keep up with this market’s growth.
In 2015, more than 12,000 tonnes of PV panels were recycled in Europe. Each year, this increases by 20 to 30%.
Each solar module consists of 5 main components:
- Aluminium for frames
- Organic elements such as plastics
- Copper connections
All these elements are recyclable.
There is no universal recycling process, this depends on the technology of the module. The main steps are often:
- Manual sorting: Aluminium frames and junction boxes are removed.
- Heat and mechanical treatment: the polymer parts (e. g. plastics) are burned to separate them from the cells. The latter, like glass and metals, are then recovered and reused for the manufacture of new panels.
- Crushing: The components are crushed and then placed on a glass recycling line that includes manual pre-sorting, crushing of laminates and separation and extraction of materials.
- Chemical treatment: to extract secondary materials in fractions and thus remove metal contacts and the anti-reflective coating.
HOW DO I RECYCLE MY PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS?
First of all, it is necessary to uninstall them. You can do it yourself and then bring them to a free collection point. However, we strongly recommend that you use a professional. To dismantle your equipment safely and without damaging your roof, you have two options:
- Or contact Younergy who will take care of everything for you.
- Either continue to use solar energy by having your defective existing panels replaced by the company that sold you the first modules.
SOLAR PANELS RECYCLING IN SWITZERLAND
The collection, transport and recycling of photovoltaic devices, as well as their administrative and financial management, are included in a European directive.
The European service provider for solar module recycling is PV CYCLE. This association, founded in 2007, collects and recycles photovoltaic equipment throughout Europe. It also provides free collection points where owners can drop off their modules at the end of their life.
In Switzerland, it is the SENS eRecycling organisation that collects fees from companies in the sector for waste treatment in Switzerland and is therefore responsible for financing recycling activities.