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Are Solar Panels Recyclable: What You Need to Know

February 23, 2022

An investment in solar power can provide clean energy for years to come. A high-quality solar system can last more than 30 years, but its life cycle will eventually end. When that happens, North Carolina residents may find themselves asking: Are solar panels recyclable?

The short answer is yes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), end-of-life solar panel recycling offers opportunities to recover valuable materials and create jobs. PES Solar is Charlotte’s trusted solar company, and we can answer all your questions about solar panels.

Why Is Solar Panel Recycling Important?

Solar cells contain heavy metals and can leak compounds into the ground if they are not disposed of properly. Additionally, by disposing of solar panels in landfills, many raw materials are being wasted.

Proper handling and recycling are also crucial factors to consider solar power as a clean and sustainable energy source. By recycling solar panels, we can protect the environment and minimize landfill use.

How Do You Recycle Solar Panels?

Solar panels with crystallized silicon, the most common type on the market, consist of aluminum, glass, copper, polymer, and silicon solar cells. Most of these components are recyclable.

Are solar panels recyclable? Yes, solar panels can either be reused or broken down to repurpose the materials.

Reuse

Reusing solar panels is a practical recycling method and requires minimal effort. Even though solar systems cannot generate high amounts of solar energy past their lifespan, there is still a place for them.

For example, they can power a small shed, an RV, or other small projects that use low amounts of energy.

Recycling

Almost 75% of the weight of a solar panel is glass, which can easily be recycled. Other components such as aluminum and copper wires and plastic junction boxes are also recyclable.

Tightly sealed polymer gives the panel weather protection but can be challenging to recycle and disassemble, as heat is often required to loosen the adhesives. Other materials found in solar cells, such as tin, tellurium, and antimony, can be difficult to recycle.

Solar Recycling in the United States

Solar photovoltaic or PV module recycling can be challenging, as many components make a solar panel. Separating and recycling each of those materials is a costly and challenging process.

As of now, there are no mandatory laws in the United States for solar photovoltaic recycling except in Washington state. More states will have to join the initiative to force manufacturers to develop recycling programs.

Why We Need End-of-Life Recycling for Solar Panels

Solar systems have become more common since the early 2000s. By the early 2030s, many solar panels will complete their life cycle. Properly disposing of and recycling them presents a new environmental challenge.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that it can recycle or repurpose over 78 million tons of raw materials from solar systems by 2050. As the world transitions towards a more sustainable and renewable-based energy future, sectors like PV recycling will become increasingly important.

For all your solar power needs, call PES Solar today at (800) 650-6519. We can answer questions like “Are solar panels recyclable?”, teach you about basic terms regarding solar power, and help you install and maintain solar systems.