Recycling Solar Panels In Australia

solar

If you’ve done your research on solar and installing a solar PV system at your home or business, then you will be well aware of the environmental benefits of solar as an alternative to non-renewable fossil fuels.

Solar energy not only is a renewable free source of energy from the sun, but it enables us to rely less on fossil fuels which in turn reduces the carbon footprint and greenhouse gases world-wide.

This benefit aswell as the positive impact solar can have on your energy bills and savings, has had many Australians turn to installing solar panels on their roofs. However, whilst the uptake of solar installations steadily increases we must question what happens to solar panels after they’ve lived out their 25 year life expectancy or where the ones that are discarded due to damage and upgrades go?

Where Do Un-Serviceable or Old Solar Panels Go?

In Australia when solar panels reach the end of their life expectancy, are damaged in transit or are being replaced under warranty, the majority of them can end up in landfills when the proper actions are not taken. Considering the average residential size 5kW solar system can have 20 panels and the average panels can weigh near 18 kg, you can see how quickly a bunch of panels being declared un-serviceable can become a huge landfill issue. Not to mention that solar panels contain a small amount of hazardous substances that when broken down or damaged can leak. While the small amount may not be harmful alone, once in a landfill surrounded by other waste the environmental impact could be dangerous.

If the panels are repairable there are providers who will revamp and resell the panels secondhand at a reduced rate (STC’s won’t be claimable).

recycling

Reclaim PV Recycling

Thankfully back in 2014 the pair from Solar Maintenance and Renewable Technologies (SMART), Clive Fleming and David Galloway recognised the lack of solar panel recycling processes in Australia and have worked together to launch Reclaim PV Recycling. The pair worked with a team at Flinders University in South Australia to develop the best practice for recycling PV modules with the goal of delivering a viable and streamlined system to enable the reclaiming of components contained in photovoltaic modules.

So far Reclaim PV Recycling has managed successful recycling processes for mono- and polycrystalline PV panels being able to reclaim up to 95% of materials, with an aim to reach 100% recyclability. The team hope to do the same for thin-film PV, batteries and inverters in the future.

Now with a successful recycling method Reclaim PV Recycling is further improving their course of action for pickups and drop off around Australia, launching a membership model where solar providers will be able to sign up and choose either to have their un-serviceable panels picked-up or drop them off at the nearest centre to be recycled.  Reclaim PV Recycling aims to have at least one collection and drop-off centre per major Australian city.

Data Collection

As a bonus to the recycling of solar panels the team at Reclaim PV Recycling are accumulating data on the solar panels they collect so they are able to identify trends and issues within the solar panel market. Being able to identify the cause to why panels are damaged or pinpoint specific brands and models that don’t seem to live out the expected lifespan will assist greatly with the quality of panel manufacturing and production in the future.

Learn more about Reclaim PV Recycling via their website or if you’re interested in learning more about the different types of solar panels and how they function view our solar panel pages via the link below.

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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.