The tremendous rise in demand for solar energy in recent years has been phenomenal and it is expected to grow at a tremendous pace in the near future. Global solar photo voltic panel installations have surpassed 64 GW of energy installations in 2016 and it is expected to surpass the total installed solar capacity to a cumulative total of 310 GW by the end of 2017. Major developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil are increasing their installed solar capacity rapidly. Rooftop PV array provides a sustainable and clean source of renewable energy through its expected lifespan of 20-30 years.
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Year-on-year increasing installations of solar panels would end up eventually in landfilling which would create environmental problems in later stages. Most PV solar panels consist of heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, which can potentially contaminate the environment and can degrade soil and air quality, when released through landfill or open burning. Some hybrid solar cells contain rare elements such as indium and gallium. Loss of these rare earth elements through indiscriminate disposal could result in permanent depletion of these substances in the future.
Solar panel recycling is a difficult task, as solar PV units are assembled by using multiple materials such as glass, which is utilized to make the front cover of most PV panels, Panel frame is usually made from aluminum, sealing agents, copper, lead, cadmium, and gallium. It is necessary to separate and recover these materials with minimal loss and damage of material for proper recycling of solar PV panels. The recycled/recovered materials can then be employed again to manufacture new solar panels or for other industrial applications. Increase in the volume of decomposed PV panels combined with strict environmental laws can boost efficient and effective recycling, which is likely to further drive the expansion of the global solar panel recycling market.
Stringent regulations for recycling, increasing volumes of PV waste, combined with stringent laws has got a significant untapped potential which is anticipated to propel the solar panel recycling market in the near future. Solar energy regulatory commissions and EPA commission have framed many regulations concerning Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL), Resource Conservations and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) standards, which are anticipated to keep an eye on the solar panel recycling processes around the globe. Lack of awareness, technology, and poor infrastructure for PV cell recycling around the world are major constraints for the solar panel recycling market.
The solar panel recycling market for the U.S. is predicted to expand at a robust growth rate due to increasing usage of solar PV panels combined with stringent recycling regulations, which are likely to further augment the outlook of the industry. Global Solar panel recycling market in is also estimated to expand significantly by the end of 2024 due to the introduction of strict regulations aiming to reduce solar PV waste by mandating manufacturers to take back decommissioned and decomposed solar PV panels for recycling. Furthermore, it is mandatory for solar PV producers to register within the solar PV Producer Compliance Scheme and to provide appropriate data needed by the government. The solar panel recycling market In China is projected to reach a value of more than US$ 50 million by the end of 2024. China has also started the PV Recycling and Safety Disposal Research program, which is a part of its national high-tech R&D program.
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Furthermore, China is drafting stringent laws and regulations to tackle rising volumes of solar PV panel waste. Countries of the Middle East and Africa have also adopted the regulations for solar PV panels recycling and also started to implement robust methodologies to tackle solar PV waste volumes. Leading players operating in the global solar panel recycling market are REMA PV Systems, Envaris, ECS Refining, Reiling Glass Recycling, Eiki Shoji Ltd, Chaoqiang Silicon Material, Suzhou Shangyunda Electronics, Darfon Electronics Corporation, Rinovasol, PV Recycling, LLC, Silcontel, Cellnex Energy, First Solar, IG Solar Private, and Canadian Solar. Global shift of focus from usage of fossil fuels toward utilizing renewable energy sources is further complementing the expansion of the solar panel recycling market.