Science & Technology

Renewable Energy Cleanup-The World of Renewable Energy

Researchers at the University of South Australia are helping to establish a lifelong stewardship scheme for managing renewable energy waste from solar panels.

Sezen Bakan, The Lead, Australia

Australia has the highest proportion of home photovoltaic (PV) systems in the world, with more than 21% of homes now owning solar energy systems.

It is estimated that by 2035 more than 100,000 tonnes of solar panels will enter Australia’s national waste stream.

Advanced Materials Research Professor Peter Majewski Institute for Future Industry, University of South Australia Help establish a lifetime stewardship scheme for the Australian PV industry and ensure that end-of-life strategies for managing solar waste are in place.

The University of South Australia team is a group led by the Smart Energy Council, working with researchers at Griffith University and the University of Technology Sydney, as well as members of the renewable energy industry.

The work of this group is to develop a product stewardship scheme, funded by the Federal Government of Australia. National Product Stewardship Investment Fund‘.

“”[We are currently researching] Ensure that all stakeholders, including manufacturers, councils, consumers and recyclers, provide guidance on what to do if a panel becomes obsolete, damaged or very old. How to develop the product stewardship scheme needed to obtain the above.

“Just as manufacturers know what to do and how to design recyclable panels, recyclers know what to do when recycling, and consumers know what to do when new panels are needed on the rooftop. I know what happens to the panel, or weather events such as hail, storms, and cyclones damage the panel. “

The low value of the materials currently found in solar panels is a problem when it comes to recycling.

“Overall, it’s not a lot of material [on a solar panel].. A valuable factor is 1% or less of the weight, “says Majewski.

“That is, the value of solar panel scrap metal is currently around $ 5.”

However, Mr. Majewski said that most solar panels installed 5 to 10 years ago have a lifespan of about 25 years, so solar panel recycling could be economically feasible within the next 10 years. I said there is.

“The volume is there … they are sitting on the roof.”

Some companies are already active in recycling solar panels, and Majewski is based in Adelaide. Regaining PV recycling As an example of a company repairing damaged solar panels.

Majewski said establishing a strong recycling industry for renewable materials would create more jobs, which he called the “key element” of the exercise.

“Collecting, transporting, recycling and refurbishing solar panels can be a daunting task,” he said.

“You can create jobs and make money, but at the moment the number of cells that can be recycled is still quite small, but it will increase.

“The right thing is to establish something now, because we have to have it in 10 years to ensure that the solar industry is still a viable industry.”

Majewski said part of the solution is that manufacturers need to consider ways to design products such as solar panels in a way that is easier to recycle.

“The purpose is not only to manage lifespan, but also to convince manufacturers to add materials to their easily recyclable designs to facilitate product disposal and recycling.”

PV life management is not the only challenge facing the renewable energy industry.Similar problem Wind turbine blades..

“Wind turbine blades are huge structures that will generate significant amounts of waste within the next 10 to 15 years,” says Majewski.

“Almost all of them are the size of a Boeing 747 wing and are made from materials. [such as glass or carbon fibre] It’s very difficult to recycle. “

Majewski and his fellow researchers are working on creating a product stewardship scheme for PV within the next two years, but Majewski believes that such measures need to be considered further in advance. ..

“Arrangements such as product stewardship schemes and extended producer responsibility need to be implemented much sooner, rather than waiting for the product to cause serious waste problems,” he said.

“As an example, if the product stewardship scheme had been implemented before the bottles were made, it’s possible that they don’t have the bottles as they do today.”


This article First published by The Lead Reprinted under Creative Commons in South Australia.

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