Renewable energy is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics in the realm of climate change remediation. Touted as the key to reducing emissions and scaling back the effects that have begun as a result of climate change, renewable energy is often thought to be the end all be all answer.
Perhaps one of the quickest growing topics within renewable energy itself is solar panels. Solar panels work by way of installing panels atop buildings, in fields, or even on water. When the sun comes out, the rays reflect off of the panels, allowing for the energy to be absorbed. That energy is then transferred directly to the grid or to a generator, where it is stored for later use. Solar panels are fairly easy to have installed, and can be a great option for businesses, individual homeowners, or even certain government sectors due to their versatility and durability.
Some of the challenges that come with solar energy revolve around land use, cost, and after life disposal. One that has quickly come to question within the past couple of years is what the lifespan of the panels is, and what happens to them after they are no longer of use. Solar panels are expected to last anywhere from 25-30 years before needing to be replaced.
In terms of energy duration, this number is fairly good, as solar panels have a reputation for durability and longevity. After those 25-30 years are up, many question what happens to the panels, and how they can be properly disposed of.
In the United States, solar energy has seen an annual growth of nearly 43%, and in Australia, those numbers were around the same. Due to this growing interest and implementation of solar energy throughout the world, it is imperative that there are proper ways to recycle and dispose of the panels at their end-of-life stage to keep their environmental impact low.
In Australia, a start-up is looking to solve this problem. The country’s first dedicated solar panel recycling plant just recently opened its doors - Lotus Energy. The process works by stripping the panels from their stands and placing them in a crusher where they will be broken down into small pieces and transferred to another part of the building for separation and reuse.
This advancement is significant for the world of renewable energy. With companies such as Lotus Energy implementing recycling plants for solar energy panels, this can potentially act as an incentive for individuals and other businesses to implement solar energy into their property and homes.
The Whole Picture
One question that will need answering as the future of PV panel recycling grows, is what the environmental impact looks like for the factories in which they are being recycled? This knowledge will come out as the industry continues to develop further, allowing the public to gain a better understanding as to what the true life-cycle assessment is for the panels, from the start of their life all the way to the end of their life. Nevertheless, this technological advancement can prove to be very helpful on the road to clean energy. With having a proper way to recycle the panels after their use, their overall environmental impact will continue to remain low and therefore remain a strong renewable energy option.
As with nearly everything in life, the query of cost will arise, and has the potential to make or break a product. We are currently unsure of the costs of recycling the panels, which means some individuals and small businesses might not be able to afford the service once Lotus Energy has begun to take clients.
However, the growing trend of solar energy has led to their costs to be dropped significantly within the past few decades, making the option more readily available to the average consumer. We might expect a similar trend to solar panel recycling. As they become more popular, the cost will reduce. This will be the ideal outcome as it will open up the service to a wider range of clientele.
With the growing demand for renewable energy on the consumer side, companies and governments are looking toward new technologies and renewable energy options. Solar energy has remained a rather popular option within the past decade, posing as a reliable energy source for implementation across many different sectors.
The continued growth of the product has yielded immense benefits, such as the lowering of manufacturing costs, the perfecting of the product, and now, a place to recycle the panels at their end of life. With this new technology being implemented in Australia, we can expect to see other countries following this example, with recycling plants popping up all over and eventually leading to an even greater shift to renewable energy.