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Australia’s First Solar Recycling Facility Open for Business

 

Australia’s first dedicated solar panel recycling plant is now operational in Thomastown; a 30-minute drive north of Melbourne CBD. Whether you’ve installed solar or not, panel recycling is something that you might not have thought about in the past. Solar power systems generally last around 25 years (or even longer); so, it’s something you don’t have to worry about until it’s time to replace your system. Just to confirm, the 25-year timeframe doesn’t mean your system will just stop working after this time, but it can become less efficient the more time that passes.

What’s the Go?

The way we dispose of solar panels in Australia has been a hot topic of discussion in the industry in 2021. Our solar boom happened in around 2010. This means that over the next few years, the way that Aussies dispose of old and used systems will be under the spotlight.

That’s where recycling facilities, such as the latest one in Thomastown, come in handy… and hopefully we get some more! The Thomastown facility has been built and opened by Melbourne-based company Lotus Energy; who are claiming to recycle 100% of solar power systems that are at the end of their life. This includes the works, from inverters and cables through to the mounting structures; all while using no chemicals. Thomastown will soon be joined by Lonsdale, South Australia as the second dedicated Australian solar panel recycling facility. However, the South Australian facility will be opened by Reclaim PV Recycling, who are also exploring the possibility of a Queensland location.

Are There Any Similar Facilities in Australia?

There are quite a few companies around Australia working to keep solar panels and system components out of landfill. They’re doing this by finding new ways to repurpose panels that are still useable, before then recycling what they can from the remaining components. We’ve found two of these facilities besides the ones mentioned above; being WA Solar Recycling (based in Western Australia) and PV Industries (based in New South Wales).

Why Are These Facilities Necessary?

Solar has been hugely popular around Australia over the last couple of years. The CSIRO recently analysed data that showed installations rising by 28% between 2019 and 2021. It’s great news, but the increased uptake of solar in Australia doesn’t come without its challenges. Due to the popularity of rooftop solar, we could see a huge amount of wastage. This would especially be the case if there aren’t sufficient solar system recycling facilities available around the 25-year mark. With that in mind, it’s also great news to see these new facilities and plants popping up around the country.

Repurposing Solar Panels

It’s important that we start to look at ways to lessen the number of solar panels and system components going to landfill. We’re crossing our fingers and toes that more of these facilities open up around the country in the coming years, but we know some Aussies are doing things a bit differently.

In some cases, solar panels still have plenty of life left in them when they are taken off a roof. Some Aussies repurpose them for a bunch of different things; from greenhouses to caravans and camping trips, there are some amazing ways it can be done. Find us on social media and let us know if you’ll be recycling your panels or repurposing them for a cool project!

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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