The news that photovoltaic panels are reusable is great news. Solar energy is, among renewable sources, the one with the best future. It is a clean, efficient and sustainable energy over time.
Photovoltaic panels have a finite lifespan
In counterpoint to wind power, solar is much cheaper to get with less expense to keep it running. But what do you do with solar panels when they reach the end of their useful life?
Solar panels are unique in that they do not require much maintenance while in use. However, they lose efficiency over time and have a long, but finite life. When the panels no longer work, they are discarded. However, recycling seems to be a better alternative for the environment and the economy.
Photovoltaic panels are made from reusable materials, such as plastic, glass or aluminum. Both glass and aluminium can be recycled and recycled more than once. The plastic used in these panels is also reusable. Likewise, the electronic components and polymers are reusable, although their extraction has the problem of cost-benefit.
Find out that photovoltaic panels are reusable
However, scientists at the South Korea Energy Research Institute came up with a technique for recycling these panels. The idea is not to destroy the solar panels in order to extract their components. There is the possibility of reconverting them. They are transformed into high-performance cells, which is of vital importance for renewable energies.
Solar cells are the most important components that panels have, they are their electrical device. Korean scientists have identified a way to recycle the panels when they have no useful life or are damaged, without destroying them.
Silicon is one of the main components. They collected it from over 70 disused panels. They refined and conditioned it into wafers of about 6 millimeters. With the wafers and recycled materials, they made solar cells with 20 percent efficiency. The new cells have an energy efficiency of 15%, lower than the recycled ones.
Recycling solar panels is good for the environment
Recycling solar panels can reduce greenhouse gases by more than a tonne. In South Korea alone, over the next decade, solar panels reaching the end of their useful life will generate almost 30,000 tons of waste.
According to studies, solar panels have an average lifespan of about 30 years. After 25 years, photovoltaic panels reduce their efficiency by almost 8% per year. That is the time when they should be replaced.
In South Korea there are 22,000 generators running on solar panels, generating about 4 gigawatts. With all this energy generated from sunlight alone, more than a million homes can be supplied with electricity.