03 Apr 2024, 13:29
Edgar Meza

Germany must expand PV recycling in view of solar growth – report

Clean Energy Wire

Better recycling infrastructure is needed for discarded solar panels in Germany, especially as waste volume is set to increase in the coming years, according to a report by the International Energy Agency's Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA PVPS). Estimated photovoltaic system (PV) waste streams in 2030 range between 400,000 and 1 million tonnes, with other estimates putting the amount of PV waste at three million tonnes by 2035, and increasing significantly in the following years. Last year, Germany raised their targets for photovoltaic power to 215 gigawatt-peak (GWp) by 2030 and 400 GWp by 2040, the period during which the first large-scale PV plants will reach the end of their lives and need to be replaced. The country’s ambitious 400 GWp target – up from around 80 GWp today – underscores the need for enhanced recycling infrastructure and expanded treatment processes to ensure a sustainable energy system, the report notes.

While several PV module recycling initiatives have been developed in the past, most have not been adopted for commercial application at the industrial level, due mainly to the currently low volumes of processed end-of-life modules, the report notes. There are also no commercial or industrial-scale operating recycling plants for other module types. German solar power and recycling companies published a joint proposal in 2021 for a comprehensive recycling program for discarded solar panels.

For two decades, Germany has been amongst the worldwide leaders of solar power expansion and therefore will be among the first countries that have to deal with managing large quantities of solar power waste efficiently. The sourcing and recycling of input materials must be improved dramatically to make the energy transition truly sustainable.

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