REV and the Agency of Natural Resource cohosted the second in a series of stakeholder discussions on end-of-life disposal issues for solar power and battery storage equipment in Vermont. The discussion featured Robert Nicholson from SEIA, Robin Ingenthron from Good Point Recycling, and Dwight Clark from We Recycle Solar. All panelists emphasized that opportunities for solar panel reuse should be maximized before recycling is considered.
The environment for end-of-life disposal for solar arrays is evolving rapidly with the Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Labs, and Environmental Protection Agency all looking at technical and logistical barriers to widespread recycling. Panelists emphasized the challenges inherent in standing up recycling systems at scale while the stream of panels that are being decommissioned is still very small.
Bob Nicholson described SEIA’s work to develop a national inventory of recycling capacity and identify downstream markets for panel components, especially glass, the most significant component of the panels by mass but also a material that is relatively low value and costly to transport. Robin Ingenthron discussed the opportunities to reuse panels that are retired because of diminished efficiency to provide clean electricity in parts of the world that would be unable to afford new equipment. Dwight Clark discussed the cost of recycling from the recyclers perspective and again highlighted that panel transportation costs are a particular challenge. Many of the materials in panels have a limited market and it quickly becomes cost prohibitive to move them over any significant distance. There was general agreement that additional federal policy to support panel recycling and provide additional clarity about when Toxic Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) testing was required would be beneficial. View the full webinar below.