We have solar panels on our roofs and encourage others to do the same. Rooftop solar adoption is greatest in Australia per capita. However, these things have a shelf life and must be replaced with more efficient modules at some point. What happens to outdated solar panels that have been discarded? Many are recycled, but others are thrown out and end up in landfills. This is not a green deed because it pollutes the land and water. Solar panels ending up in landfills is a source of concern for many environmentalists.
Aluminum, glass, copper, and silicon make up a solar panel. Aluminum, glass, and copper are all easily recycled, but what about silicon? Germany alone produces ten thousand tonnes per year, and this number is expected to rise.
“The procedure for recovering the silicon material from discarded solar PV modules was developed by a working group at Fraunhofer CSP, in collaboration with Reiling GmbH & Co. KG, and funded by funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate BMWK,” according to the statement. All crystalline silicon solar PV modules, regardless of manufacturer or origin, can be recycled using the resultant recycling process.
“Crystallization is done with 100% recycled silicon, with no commercial ultrapure silicon added, and the wafers are subsequently built into PERC solar cells at Fraunhofer ISE’s PV-TEC.” The PERC solar cells that resulted had a conversion efficiency of 19.7%.”
“Passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) solar cells consist of the addition of an additional layer to the rear-side of a solar cell,” according to Wikipedia. This dielectric passive layer functions as a reflector, reflecting unabsorbed light back to the solar cell for a second absorption attempt, enhancing the efficiency of the solar cell. An extra film deposition and etching process is used to make a PERC. Chemical etching or laser etching are both options.”
This technique is projected to proliferate and allow for more reuse of the materials that make up a solar panel, as well as diminish the objections that some people use to oppose renewable energy (obviously, they have never seen the slag heaps around coal mines and power stations). There will be a significant reduction in the amount of solar panels that end up in landfills.