Solar panels have a long lifetime, usually about 30 years or more. However, with the increasing number of solar panels being installed each year in the United States, it is only a matter of time before they all reach the end of their useful time, and these high volumes of silicon solar panels will need to be disposed of.
While solar panels increase home & property value, they do have a shelf life. When the solar panels become burnt out, they will need to be recycled in a responsible manner.
Just like any other manufactured product, disposal of solar panels is hardly environmentally friendly. In the solar cells are heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, which are capable of harming the natural environment if not properly disposed of or recycled. Also, solar panels that are thrown away carelessly can end up in large landfills.
While environmental protection is a concern in the disposal of solar panels, on the other hand, solar panels can be economically impactful by way of recycling at the end of their lifetime. Though the process of recycling solar panels can be tedious and require advanced machinery, the difficulties with its recycling do not mean that the materials they are made from are difficult to recycle, but that they are made from various parts all used together in one product. It is therefore complex and a potentially expensive process to separate those materials and recycle them each in a unique way.
Though there is a common belief that solar panels cannot be recycled, in the actual sense, such a claim is only a myth. Its metal frame, glass panels, solar cells, and wiring qualify for general recycling. Silicon solar modules are basically made up of glass, plastic, and aluminum. These materials are recycled in mass quantities. Some of the rare elements in PV cells such as indium and gallium are being depleted over time from the natural environment. If these elements were to be recovered, we could save the limited amount present in nature so to continue using them for solar panels and other products.
However, solar panel recycling as a process requires time to be widely implemented and needs more research to reach its full potential of recycling every component of the solar panel adequately.
Traditionally, solar panels have been recycled at general glass recycling facilities. Here, the metal frames and the glass parts are recovered while the remaining parts are disposed of or burned. However, more options are coming up in the form of organizations working to make solar panel recycling complete and mainstream. While solar panel recycling may not be widespread currently in the United States for all the components of the solar panel, there is still some time left before the number of solar panels needing to be recycled goes up. Some groups are doing the vital groundwork for the industry to reach the full potential of adequately recycling all the components in a solar panel.
In conclusion, we have seen that solar panels can be recycled; hence, with proper solar panel recycling infrastructure in place, we could witness several new opportunities within the economy. Since this feat is achievable, solar energy is still a great, environmentally friendly financial investment for your business and household uses.