Written By Megan McDonald
Since most solar installs have occurred recently and panels can last for over 25 years, solar panel recycling hasn’t become a major issue yet. Nevertheless, as time goes on the need for recycling solutions will increase. It is important for a ‘green’ industry, like ours, to focus on the end of a solar project’s lifespan so that so that we can prevent landfills from overflowing with panels in a few decades.
At the moment there aren’t a ton of well-developed panel recycling programs in the US, but there are still some options for home or business owners. One important thing to note is that if your panels are still under warranty, it is the responsibility of the installer or manufacturer to handle the disposal process. So, if your recently installed panels need to be recycled, give your installation company a call and they will provide service per your warranty contract.
If your panels aren’t under warranty, you still have recycling options. One of those options is to bring your panels to a professional “green” recycling company. Often times, you will be able to find info on these companies on the recycling and waste section of your local county website. For example, Ramsey County’s website lists three recycling companies that accept solar panels.
Lastly, while it is not actually illegal to throw panels in the trash, it is very much not preferred! Don’t throw away used panels unless you are out of other options!
Once the panels get to a facility the process of actually breaking them down and recycling them can be quite complex. This is because the different components that the panels are made of are difficult to separate. Panel components include Silicon from the solar cells, metal framing, glass sheets, wires, and Plexiglas. Separating those materials and recycling them each in a unique way is a complex and potentially expensive process.
It’s only a matter of time before solar panel recycling in the US becomes more accessible. If you want to see what that might look like, you just need to look across the pond at Europe. Europe’s solar boom took place several years before the United States’ and the infrastructure there has had more time to grow. The result is an abundance of solar panel recycling options for businesses and homeowners alike. Here’s to hoping that the US is close behind!