Global review of policies & guidelines for recycling of solar PV modules

Author(s): Arvind Sharmaa,b, Suneel Pandeyb, Mohan Kolhea
aFaculty of Engineering and Science, University of Agder. P.O. Box 422, NO 4604, Kristiansand, Norway
bThe Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi – 110 003, India
International Journal of Smart Grid and Clean Energy, vol. 8, no. 5, September 2019: pp. 597-610
ISSN: 2315-4462 (Print)
ISSN: 2373-3594 (Online)
Digital Object Identifier: 10.12720/sgce.8.5.597-610

Abstract: An early development of PV recycling industry will be essential for use renewable energy in a sustainable manner. It has been estimated that the cumulative PV waste has reached 43,500-250,000 metric tonnes in 2016, is 0.1%-0.6% of the total installed PV capacity (4 million metric tonnes). The percentage of the solar PV waste will increase further and will contribute 4% of the installed PV capacity by 2030s. However, there are unique opportunities for creating economic value from the PV waste (e.g. recovery of raw material, market for new PV recycle industries etc). This paper has reviewed policies and guidelines for PV recycling in selected countries (i.e. Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Czech Republic, Japan, USA, China, South Korea, India). PV systems are increasing exponentially in India and China, therefore end-of-life management policies regulations are required to support the transition to sustainable PV life cycle programme. The EU member states have taken initiatives for establishing the regime for PV module collection and handling in accordance with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) and has been discussed for implementation in addition to the existing policies. PV manufacturers have also developed voluntarily few models for PV recycling: First Solar, SolarWorld Global and PV Cycle. First Solar’s industry-leading recycling services enable PV power plant and module owners to meet their module end-of-life (EOL) obligation simply, cost-effectively and responsibly. SolarWorld program is designed to recycle PV modules that have undergone any type of damage (e.g. glass breakage, defective laminate or electrical faults) and as a result SolarWorld was ranked first overall among crystalline PV manufacturers in a report by the Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition. PV Cycle is a program that was created by the European PV manufacturing industries and it is sustained to retain its world-leading position in the collection and treatment of photovoltaic module waste. Based on the specific national conditions and relative PV sector maturity, the enabling framework should focus on adopting a system-level approach. It has been critically observed that the development regulatory framework/guidelines and innovative business models, build up capacity of local institutions and PV recycling industry are very important for the PV end-of-life management system. Some of the countries which are early at stage of addressing PV recycling challenges, can use the EU’s expertise as well as in coordination with the PV manufacturers for developing regulatory framework and guidelines.

Keywords: Photovoltaic recycling, PV life cycle programs, PV end-of-life, PV recycling policing and guidelines
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