The afterlife of solar panels

You might think of solar panels as a top sustainability solution. While it’s true that they’re terrific for harnessing renewable energy from the sun, photovoltaic panels have an oft-ignored downside: they are very hard to recycle. Because solar cells include heavy metals like lead and cadmium, it’s dangerous to toss them in the landfill. Unfortunately, this is where the panels often wind up once they’ve outlived their usefulness. People are still trying to figure out how to boost large-scale recycling of solar panels in a safe and cost-effective way.

What are solar panels made of?

One of the most important components of a solar panel is silicon. After oxygen, silicon is the second biggest element in our planet’s crust. There are three main approaches to making silicon into panels. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient and expensive. Manufacturers cut individual wafers from a large silicon block and then affix the wafers to panels. This labor-intensive process produces the sleekest-looking, premium solar panels.

Polycrystalline solar cells are made by melting many silicon crystals together, then fusing them en masse onto a panel. These are blueish and are less expensive than monocrystalline panels but also less

— source | Teresa Bergen | Sep 3, 2020

Nullius in verba


Why they taxing solar industry

SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc. filed a lawsuit Monday against the state Department of Revenue alleging that the department’s interpretation of a state law to mean that Arizonans who lease solar panels aren’t eligible for tax exemptions granted to those who own them is illegal. This tax on leased solar panels would result in $152 extra in property taxes for the first year of a homeowner’s leased $34,000 solar-panel array, a charge that would decrease each year as the value of the array goes down. For larger, commercial arrays, the taxes will be higher — a leased 80-kilowatt, $360,000 system would carry a $1,615 charge its first year, and a 250-kilowatt system would be charged $4,485.


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Double-sided solar panels that follow the sun prove most cost effective

Solar power systems with double-sided (bifacial) solar panels — which collect sunlight from two sides instead of one — and single-axis tracking technology that tilts the panels so they can follow the sun are the most cost effective to date, researchers report June 3rd in the journal Joule. They determined that this combination of technologies produces almost 35% more energy, on average, than immobile single-panel photovoltaic systems, while reducing the cost of electricity by an average of 16%. The results are stable, even when accounting for changes in the weather conditions and in the costs from the solar panels and the other components of the photovoltaic system, over a fairly wide range

— source, | Jun 3, 2020

Nullius in verba

Yes, solar panels can be recycled

Renewable energy is cleaner than fossil fuel energy. No fuel is burned. There are no emissions from producing the energy itself. But there are still emissions in creating and then disposing of the technology. This is a recurring theme in sceptical dismissals of renewable energy: look at this stack of retired solar panels/wind turbines/electric car batteries – not as green as you thought!

The truth always lies with the comparison. Electric vehicles are cleaner than petrol, even if they’re not charged with renewable energy. If you threw your wind turbines into landfill at the end of their life, they would still do less damage than coal or gas power over the course of their lifetime. We can’t let perfection be the enemy of good, and rejecting renewable technologies because they aren’t 100% environmentally benign is hardly logical.

Naturally, we do want to process things properly at the end of their lives, and there is no excuse for waste. And so of course electric car batteries, wind turbines and solar panels can and should be

— source | Jeremy Williams | Apr 30, 2020

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Solar power has been growing for decades

The spread of COVID-19, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, is expected to slow solar energy’s rate of growth for the first time since the 1980s. On Monday, two major solar panel manufacturers that supply the U.S. utility market, JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Canadian Solar Inc., both saw their stock prices fall by double digits. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research firm, previously predicted that global solar energy capacity would grow by 121 to 152 gigawatts this year, but on Friday, the group issued a new report dialing back its prediction to just 108 to 143 Gigawatts.

Solar’s rate of growth has been increasing for decades. Clayton Aldern / Grist

— source | Mar 16, 2020

Nullius in verba