Solar energy is the most environmentally friendly form of renewable energy found these days.
Homeowners are rapidly switching to renewable energy due to the various benefits that solar panels provide.
Clean and renewable energy is useful as it reduces the number of greenhouse gasses produced. They are also cost-efficient for homeowners and corporates.
So, what should one do when their solar panel is not useful anymore?
Keep reading this guide as we provide an in-depth analysis on how to dispose of solar panels the right way.
When Should You Dispose of Your Solar Panels?
Solar panels typically have a lifespan of up to 30 years. After this, they start to decommission and stop being of use.
Once a solar panel has run its course, it must be disposed of properly. Improper disposal of solar panels can be severely hazardous for human health and the environment.
How to Ensure Safe Disposal of Solar Panels?
There are a few different options for the disposal of solar panels. However, they can also be recycled through solar recycling plants.
Option # 1: Dispose of Solar Panels by Giving it to Recycling Companies
Over time, different methods for safe recycling and reusing solar panels have emerged. However, this practice is more common in developed countries.
Developed countries have various recycling companies. This enable consumers to recycle their old solar panels and solar energy systems once they are no longer useful.
These companies aim to reduce hazardous waste discarded in landfills.
Glass and plastic recycling companies often recycle the glass and plastic present within solar panels. These products are extracted and recycled, while the rest are usually burned or discarded off.
When selecting a solar waste recycling company, ensure that it offers you environmentally friendly and cost-effective ways of disposal.
Option # 2: Dispose of Solar Panels at Hazardous Waste Collection Facility
You can check with your local council and get in touch with the nearest hazardous waste collection facility to safely dispose of solar panels.
Solar waste in landfills can be dangerous. Giving them off to a hazardous waste collection site is the wiser choice, as they will end up recycling it.
If you do not have this facility in your city, you can call your local landfill and inquire if they accept old solar panels.
If they do, you can ask them for all requirements and instructions to follow. You should call and schedule a drop-off time with them to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Solar waste in landfills can be dangerous, so make sure that your solar panels are labeled hazardous toxic waste.
Option # 3: Dispose of Solar Panels through Solar Energy Manufacturing Companies
Various solar energy manufacturing firms also give you options on how to recycle your solar panels to make the process simple for their consumers.
Some recycling companies take solar panels for recycling. They can reuse up to 90% of the materials used within the solar panels.
Some of these companies also offer up methods of earning money while disposing of unusable solar panels. They recycle and use the materials and products from the discarded solar panels.
How To Recycle Solar Panels?
Typically the materials required to manufacture solar panels include glass, metal, and some plastic elements.
The good news is all these materials can be recycled once the time comes to dispose of your solar panels.
If you are trying to recycle solar panels by yourself, here is how you should carry out the process:
- Start disassembling the solar panel for recycling.
- Take out all the components like the panel glass, aluminum frame, connection box, and cables.
- Place them separately according to the material, as each component will be recycled separately.
- The glass from solar panels can be cut into smaller pieces or used to create new glass items.
- You can take the aluminum frame to a metal recycling company and sell it off for some extra cash. The same goes for cables and wires.
- All the silicon material can also go to a recycling plant or companies that specifically recycle such items.
Why Safe Disposal of Solar Panels is So Important?
To answer the question above, you first have to understand what solar panels are and how they work.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
A solar panel works to convert solar light and energy into particles called ‘photons,’ which provide electricity. This electricity powers electrical systems in residential or commercial properties.
A solar panel consists of many layers of silicon crystals known as cells. These are layered in the form of sheets.
Each of these layers of the silicon crystal cells put in between layers of aluminum and glass. Once these are all put together, they serve as a solar panel to convert sunlight into electricity.
The cells used as sheets require an extremely pure form of silicone to work properly, which is why silicone crystals are used.
When the silicone atoms are exposed to the sunlight, they form a charge that generates energy electrons inside the panel.
These electrons are then transported within the cell through the metal impurities mixed into the silicone.
The generated electrical currents then flow through copper wires into the electrical systems present.
Electric currents produce some of the most hazardous greenhouse gases found, such as nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride.
Now that we are aware of all the hazardous components that make a solar panel, it makes complete sense that the safe disposal of solar panels is a necessity.
What Are the Issues Related to Solar Panel Disposal?
In order to dispose of a solar panel, the solar recycling plants remove valuable metals such as silver and copper from the cells to reuse them.
The tainted glass and plastic are then burned down in large cement ovens for further recycling. However, this process often takes more time and costs more than producing a new solar panel.
Therefore, it is usually more suitable for solar companies to dispose of used panels in large landfills or export them to developing countries.
Used solar panels contain highly hazardous and toxic waste, and therefore leaking these harmful metals into the environment can cause serious threats to public health and safety.
Developing countries usually do not have the resources and infrastructure to dispose of these contaminated solar panels properly.
Large landfills are usually sufficient to dispose of such hazardous waste, but developing countries often lack the regulation and resources to build such landfills.
The hazardous chemicals present in lead and cadmium used in solar plants can also leak into the water, which is highly toxic for plants and can be extremely harmful to human health.
Human exposure to these metals can damage the human brain and is toxic.
The problem of disposal of solar waste is escalating rapidly, and it is predicted by 2050, there will be around 80 tons of solar waste.
Should You Consider Recycling Solar Panels?
Yes, the good news is solar panels are recyclable. However, there is a catch to it.
The cost of recycling solar panels is way higher than the cost of disposing of them at a landfill.
Metals such as cadmium and lead are added to solar panels to increase their electrical efficiency.
Although silicone is easily recyclable, these metals are not. These metals are tough to recycle for solar panel companies, containing hazardous properties.
So, which option should you go with?
Recycling, of course.
Recycling solar panels may be expensive, but it’s the wise thing to do. Recycling solar panels are good for the environment.
If you choose not to invest in recycling solar panels and end up disposing them in the garbage, it will only add more to environmental pollution.
In addition to this, when you dispose of solar panels in landfills, it defeats the purpose of saving the planet and reducing pollution.
Hence, recycling solar panels or donating them to recycling plants or companies is always preferable.
The Bottom Line
We hope this guide on ‘How to dispose of solar panels?’ was an informative read for you.
When it comes to disposing of products like solar panels specifically designed to save energy, it is better to choose recycling as a disposal option.
This way, you can complete the life cycle of your solar panel and ensure that it serves its purpose well, that is, to save the planet. Good Luck!
If you have any thoughts or feedback about solar panel disposal, feel free to share it in the comments section below.
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