A new recycling solar panels plant opened in Yuma, Arizona, with a innovation to address ‘solar waste’
Most worn-out and broken solar panels are still thrown in landfills. But with the growth of solar energy, the industry is recognizing the surge of a new problem called – solar waste. It is expected that, by 2025, solar waste will accumulate a total of 78 million tons globally, according to Mool Gupta, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Virginia. However, recycling solar panels is still an expensive practice: $30 per panel cost VS $1 to send it to a landfill.
In Arizona, can be found North America’s first utility-scale solar panel recycling plant, We Recycle Solar, a remarkable example of sustainable innovation.
As solar panels age and wear out, recycling initiatives like this one play a crucial role in reducing electronic waste and promoting a circular economy. By giving old solar panels a second life, it helps to:
- Reduce E-Waste: Solar panels can contain hazardous materials, and improper disposal can harm the environment. Recycling plants ensure that valuable materials are extracted and disposed of safely.
- Preserve Resources: Recycling solar panels conserves valuable resources like rare metals and glass, reducing the need for new raw materials and the associated environmental impact.
- Promote Sustainability: Recycling aligns with the principles of sustainability, reducing the carbon footprint of solar panel production and disposal.
- Economic Opportunities: Recycling facilities create jobs and opportunities for the local economy, contributing to the growth of the renewable energy sector.
- Support the Circular Economy: This initiative aligns with the concept of a circular economy, where materials are reused or repurposed, reducing waste and environmental impact.
- Extend Product Lifespan: By refurbishing or recycling solar panels, their useful life is extended, ensuring that the energy they generate continues to offset carbon emissions.
- Initiatives like the one in Yuma, Arizona, demonstrate the importance of responsible and sustainable practices in the renewable energy industry. They contribute to the overall sustainability and longevity of solar power as a clean energy source.
The Yuma, Arizona, facility can process 7,500 panels in a single day or roughly 69 million pounds per year. As of early June, it estimates more than 650,000 tons of carbon dioxide have been avoided. It is reusing about 60% of the panels that come in. The company plans to open another recycling facility alongside a large solar manufacturer in the Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina corridor.
Recycling solar panels helps reduce electronic waste, conserves resources, and minimizes the environmental impact of solar panel disposal. As the solar industry continues to grow, responsible recycling practices are becoming increasingly important to ensure the sustainability of solar energy. Additionally, government regulations and incentives may encourage and support solar panel recycling efforts.
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These installations guarantee a stable use of the location for over 25-35 years, and relatively easy to restore the lands to its original state after this period. It is a form of installation with a limited environmental impact. Also, the materials used can be recovered, recycled and transformed into new solar panels or other products.