What happens to a solar equipment, when the system is no longer in use or at the end of its life? Unfortunately, many panels have ended up in landfills. In 2015, California passed a law that does not allow PV panels to be dumped into landfills. Because of that, panels were being shipped to other states and being disposed of there.
Today, more companies are coming to the rescue with recycling and/or reuse of solar equipment. Many systems being installed today, will be at prime production for at least the next 20 years. With solar gaining in huge popularity over the last 5-10 years, what will become of these panels in the future?
Another solution to this problem is reuse. Common Energy LLC in Hood River, Oregon can reuse panels that are still functioning. WFTSS in Fresno, California has kept more than 1000 tons of solar material out of landfills by reusing the equipment. The company sells the reused equipment pieces which funds their main objective- to install pro bono solar projects to indigenous people in Mexico.
Other out of state companies making an impact include RecyclePV in Arizona, which opened in 2018. To recycle a panel, they separate the aluminum frame, remove the junction box and wires and then run the panel through an oven. That’s followed by separating the crushed materials. This process results in a 98% recycled panel!
Many of the panels we install today, have a warranty of at least 20 years. Even after that, the panels will continue to work, just at a lesser efficiency. When it does end up being time to recycle them, we are hopeful that there will be many ways to recycle and reuse those parts, even locally.