We are taking steps towards solar panels recycling

The article was published in Business Insider on 25th of October, 2022.

Alseva Group – Sunly’s Polish solar power constructor company has signed a Letter of Intent with Biosystem Elektrorecykling to start cooperation in the field of used PV panels recycling. Partners’ activity profiles, technical capabilities, expertise and planned cooperation with academic centres will allow to acquire and implement the most efficient technology for the recycling of used solar panels. 

The current geopolitical situation, namely the war in Ukraine and the resulting global energy crisis, rising fossil fuel prices, blackouts probabilities and the widely discussed risk of aggravated climate change, all together have triggered investments in renewable energy. Both solar and wind power being foremost an environmentally friendly alternative, have huge potential to lower energy prices and make economies less dependent on fossil fuels.  

In Poland, the number of solar power plants is tremendously growing, and today the total installed renewable energy capacity reaches about 20 GW. Meanwhile, investors are constantly looking for suitable sites for solar parks construction, and they choose the environmentally conscious partners with a stable financial position. Solar energy is still a relatively new type of energy, and the installations are planned to be used for next 20-30 years. If we want to make a quick transition happen, we need to treat it as a very topical issue that needs to be dealt with all the time. 

In Poland, there are companies whose long-term strategy includes finding the most optimal procedures for dealing with used solar panels. In line with European Green Deal, a circular economy that is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible, is being promoted in all areas.  

Glass, aluminium and silicon wafers can be partially recovered. However, this silicon is still not suitable for the production of new solar cells. On the other hand, thermal processing and disposal of panels in landfills is not possible – both due to the environmental cost and presence of valuable raw materials that should be recovered instead. The most popular crystalline silicon PV panels contain approximately 76% glass, 10% polymer, 8% aluminium, 5% silicon, 1% copper and less than 0.1% other metals (silver, tin and lead). Currently, the technology allows to recover approx. 90% of these raw materials. 

There is no comprehensive panel recycling system implemented in Poland yet. But this is about to change. Alseva, together with its partner Biosystem – organization for the recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment, started activities aimed at creating procedures and acquiring a recycling technology, where the process efficiency will be the highest. Thanks to this, the owners of the plots where PV plants are located gain assurance that the dismantled PV panels will be professionally recycled. Thus, their basic concerns related to the restoration of the site to its pre-construction condition are allayed. 

Marek Motyl, the Director of Operations at Alseva Pro Sp. z o.o comments: “We are a group of companies that specialize in the development, construction and maintenance of large-scale solar parks in Poland. As a developer and independent power producer, we own those solar power plants and we commit ourselves to our partners, for example municipalities, to restore the leased land to its previous state after the end of the contract. Therefore, in the future, we will be solely responsible for the solar panels disassembly and disposal. We want to make sure that this process will be carried out in the most sustainable way while meeting landowners expectations. Thus, we are starting all necessary preparations for recycling already today. Thanks to the cooperation with our partner – Biosystem SA, which also sees a great opportunity for this recycling industry development, we are sure that we will find and implement the most optimal technological, business and environmental solutions.” 

Read more about solar panels waste and disposal from our previous blog post.