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Megatons of Solar Panel trash coming to a dump near you soon…

Solar Power, not-so-sustainable?

Solar panels need a special kind of recycling that costs 4 to 8 times as much as the recycled bits and bobs are worth. And the first major generation of solar panels will hit their use-by date soon.Solar Panels, resting on a river of subsidies. Photo.

Solar Panels Are Starting to Die, Leaving Behind Toxic Trash

Maddie Stone, Wired

By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. While the latter number is a small fraction of the total e-waste humanity produces each year, standard electronics recycling methods don’t cut it for solar panels. Recovering the most valuable materials from one, including silver and silicon, requires bespoke recycling solutions.

The solar sleeper awakes:

Most solar manufacturers claim their panels will last for about 25 years, and the world didn’t start deploying solar widely until the early 2000s. As a result, a fairly small number of panels are being decommissioned today. PV Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to solar panel take-back and recycling, collects several thousand tons of solar e-waste across the European Union each year…

In the EU the producers have to recycle the panels they make. Rules to deal with solar remnants are apparently in progress in Australia, India and Japan, but there are almost none in the USA.

At a typical e-waste facility, this high-tech sandwich will be treated crudely. Recyclers often take off the panel’s frame and its junction box to recover the aluminum and copper, then shred the rest of the module, including the glass, polymers, and silicon cells, which get coated in a silver electrode and soldered using tin and lead. (Because the vast majority of that mixture by weight is glass, the resultant product is considered an impure, crushed glass.) Tao and his colleagues estimate that a recycler taking apart a standard 60-cell silicon panel can get about $3 for the recovered aluminum, copper, and glass. Vanderhoof, meanwhile, says that the cost of recycling that panel in the US is between $12 and $25—after transportation costs, which “oftentimes equal the cost to recycle.” At the same time, in states that allow it, it typically costs less than a dollar to dump a solar panel in a solid-waste landfill.

Second-hand solar panels are being sent to the third world. Makes a cheaper form of landfill…

h/t Enoch R

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Rating: 9.6/10 (64 votes cast)
Megatons of Solar Panel trash coming to a dump near you soon..., 9.6 out of 10 based on 64 ratings

66 comments to Megatons of Solar Panel trash coming to a dump near you soon…

  • #
    Don B

    Trash. In every sense of the word.

    210

  • #
    MrGrimNasty

    It’s worse than that (well according to the nuclear industry – but they aren’t saying anything I didn’t already know).

    https://dailycaller.com/2017/07/01/solar-panels-generate-300-times-more-toxic-waste-than-nuclear-reactors/

    Of course windmills are landfill bound too.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-05/wind-turbine-blades-can-t-be-recycled-so-they-re-piling-up-in-landfills

    170

    • #
      Bulldust

      Lead and glass… why don’t we melt it down and use it to encase nuclear waste. Two birds, one lead-tainted glass stone.

      30

  • #
    David Maddison

    The good thing about coal plants is that they are highly recyclable. The steel and alloys used in the boilers and turbines and metal in the buildings and copper in the generators is all valuable and highly recyclable.

    Even the fuel they burn, coal is recycled. Once it is burned in the reaction C + O2 -> CO2 plants absorb the CO2 and ultimate reverse the reaction or at least turn it into an energy rich carbohydrate which can again be used for fuel such as food or wood for burning.

    421

    • #
      David Maddison

      Of course, unlike wind and solar subsidy farms, coal plant doesn’t need recycling very often. They easily last 50 or 60 years under free market conditions.

      421

  • #
    Jojodogfacedboy

    The forcing of vast regulations with penalties has decimated our job market while we import products that are illegal to produce in our country.
    Safety regulations and health regulations over the decades has decimated older business that I was part of. Growing up with a chainsaw in your hands and needing tools that had to have safety features. Government regulations made this illegal and many different penalties were incorporated.
    This has taken away our abilities to be innovative with added restrictions and laws.

    210

  • #
    David Maddison

    I would like to see the remnants of wind and solar subsidy farms dumped in huge piles in their respective countries as monuments to the stupidity of these civilisation-destroying monstrosities.

    281

    • #
      PeterS

      Sort of like in WALL-E.

      40

    • #
      David-of-Cooyal-in-Oz

      Sorry David,
      Australians bought these rotten things from the cheapest supplier. We have to wear the responsibility for the clean up. Maybe dump them in Bob Brown’s backyard in Tassie instead?
      Cheers
      Dave B

      131

      • #
        beowulf

        No, dump it on the steps of parliament as a permanent feature topped by a big accusatory sign with a finger pointing at the gutless/ignorant/complicit pollies inside, like the Lord Kitchener signs of WW1.

        180

    • #
      MCMXLIII

      Representative bits and pieces could be assembled as a tourist attraction and for the education and amusement of future generations, like for instance the Budapest Memento Park.

      20

  • #
    David Maddison

    Do you think the Greentards know about the environmental destruction in China from the mining of rare earth metals for windmill subsidy farm magnets?

    182

    • #
      GD

      Most likely no, but neither China nor the Greentards care.

      180

    • #
      StephenP

      No, and they probably wouldn’t believe it when told, or else would say that it is a price we have to pay to save the planet.
      https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/toxic-lake-black-sludge-result-mining-create-tech/story?id=30122911

      90

      • #
        Terry

        Meh! What are a few more foreigners, living under the jackboots of their ideology, sacrificed at the altar of Gaia? Statistics ‘n’ all…

        As noted “Compassionista”, Sarah Hyphen Sea-Patrol might put it: ‘Tragedies happen, accidents happen…’

        Someone has to make the sacrifice, and it is a demonstration of their immense compassion that they will ensure that it is not them. Except it will be them, they’re just too dim to understand where all of this ends; too busy feeding in the trough of public largesse to recognise the impending danger. Hmmmm, public monies taste sooooo good (the more stolen, the better). ‘nom nom nom’

        80

    • #
      Yonniestone

      Recently spoke to a Concreter that worked on Wind Turbine bases, each 650 metric tons of concrete with enough steel reinforcement that you couldn’t put your arm through it.

      It’s really really Green though.

      190

      • #
        David Maddison

        In certain jurisdictions, after the wind subsidy harvesting device has reached its useful tax harvesting life, the owners are required to remove the visible above ground parts but are allowed to leave the massive underground pads whereby they interfere with ground water etc..

        81

  • #
    David Maddison

    When the commies destroyed Hazelwood Power station in Victoriastan they also destroyed an important recreational facility which was the cooling pond, constantly warm, which could be used for swimming, boating and fishing all year round and was filled with tropical fish including barramundi. When the plant was shut down vast numbers of dead fish washed up on the shores. Now the water level has been lowered and the recreational areas permanently closed.

    271

  • #
    David Maddison

    The world doesn’t need wind or solar. Proper scientists and engineers long ago worked out how to generate practically unlimited quantities of cheap, clean energy from coal, gas, nuclear and properly engineered hydro.

    332

  • #
    Peter Fitzroy

    Instead of junk, aren’t we taught that solar panels should be seen as an opportunity? Let’s look at other products
    some figures
    Lithium-ion batteries- lithium is 5 times more expensive from a recycler than using child labour – that’s a bummer for the greens like me
    Mobile phones – some can be refurbished, but again the cost is 5-10 times more expensive than sourcing new materials – strike 2 for geens like me.

    Since price is the god we pray to on this site, I’ll never be able to carry the day by insisting that we change our economies to eliminate waste, not just in solar, but EVs, and tech off all types, I will concede the field and the day.

    323

    • #
      TedM

      “Since price is the god we pray to on this site”.
      So are you admitting that coal is a cheaper source of power than wind and solar PF.

      190

      • #
        Peter Fitzroy

        No – am am saying it is cheaper to dump and use new. This makes sense in our economy, as waste is externalised (in the economic sense)in the production process.

        but we do live on a finite planet.

        119

        • #
          OriginalSteve

          Yeah the irony is the biggest environmental vandals, are the environmentalists….

          Perhaps if the greenies want to actually perform a service to the planet they could work in the solar panel recycling plants for free …..

          Any takers?

          130

        • #
          yarpos

          All this concern doesnt seem to discourage your use of advanced first world technologies over the energy gobbling Internet

          60

    • #

      You’re confusing price with price/performance/efficiency relative to the competition. It’s called the free market and the need to be competitive is what drives innovation resulting in lower prices for more capable products.

      Besides, your silly green fantasy is driven by the most corrupt fake science ever conceived whose sole purpose was to feign support for an otherwise unsupportable agenda.

      320

    • #
      Yonniestone

      Oh what a dramatic hyperbole Cassandra!, you attempt to make yourself out to be Henry V at Agincourt when in reality your a moth repeatedly hitting the bright light.

      80

    • #
      R.B.

      The story is about not thinking an idea through properly. You twist a cock up into an opportunity.

      00

  • #
    John F. Hultquist

    I remember when autos in the USA were spoken of in the manner of this post. Example: lots of shiny Chrome on steel, thus hard to deal with. After considerable re-engineering the issue sort of went away.

    My proposal: Build solar panels so at end-of-life they can be filled with foam insulation**, turned backwards, and used to clad exterior walls for houses and other small buildings.
    What could go wrong? {Recall the pink batts disaster}

    **grind wind-machine blades to a powder and add to the foam; a two-fer

    20

    • #
      ivan

      Sorry, your proposal is not a good idea.

      Building your house from toxic waste is not a good idea. Neither is grinding up dead turbine blades because it costs more to do it than the resultant chips can be sold for.

      30

    • #
      Terry

      In its whole lifetime of operation, would the wind turbine produce enough energy to be able to grind itself to dust?

      31

  • #

    I have been selling second hand solar panels in northern NSW for about 4 years. Mainly to people living off grid in communes, bush blocks and to others who are just sick of being ripped off by the power companies for outrageous connection cost and power bills etc.Of the thousands of panels I have sold, well under half of one percent are faulty and many of those can easily be repaired by replacing the box on the back of the panel with one from a damaged panel.
    Most of these panels are from insurance claim but recently a large number are from “upgrades” to existing systems. This when people get subsidies to “upgrade” to SLIGHTLY more efficient systems. Every component is replace with all the old stuff being scrapped and a few of the panels sold to people like me.

    What is happening is that a perfectly good ,functioning, subsidised system with probably 20 years life left in it is being removed, scrapped and your taxes are being used to subsidise the new system.
    The best story I have heard from my suppliers is when a customer had a 10 kw system installed but decided that he wanted a 20 kw system instead. He was unable to get a subsidy to install another 10 kw (40 panels)but by using the excuse that he didn’t like the brand of panels supplied he was able to get a subsidy to remove and scrap the 6 week old 10 kw system and replace it with a new 20 kw (80 panel) system .

    This is YOUR TAXES at work!

    310

    • #

      So are you saying that with a little effort and an attitude of repair and reuse, we can avoid the alarmist claims of this article?

      222

      • #
        ivan

        No matter how you try to portray it when the EOL time arrives you end up with toxic waste that goes into landfill.

        220

      • #
        Kalm Keith

        Location, location, location.

        Not functional in urban areas where, even there, connection costs are extortionate.

        Connection to isolated “communes” is impossibly expensive making “solar” the least worst option.

        KK

        30

        • #
          yarpos

          People should be allowed to build their own standard compliant transmission lines, then they might be a little more in touch with how “extortionate” the quotes are. You choose to live were you want to live, its not up to everyone else to make that convenient and cheap.

          30

          • #
            Kalm Keith

            I agree with that but there was a time when connection costs and urban line work was done essentially “at cost” as part of a routine government controlled basic service.

            The privatisation of marketing has made it open slather on subsections of the costing process and previously acceptable costs during building construction are now through the roof.

            20

      • #
        Analitik

        No, robert forbes is talking about a subsidy ripoff involving newish PV systems being replaced/upgraded due to lax regulations.

        This article is about end of life solar panels where the PV output has severely degraded

        50

      • #
        Annie

        Accidental touch on green there GA. I don’t think that is what is being said. No doubt some panels can be reused or recycled but not many.

        10

  • #
    Zigmaster

    I’m sure huge batteries and windmills will look good in landfills over the next few decades as well.

    60

  • #
    David Maddison

    No one is forced to purchase products made with child labour such as is used in the socialist Congo ruled by the Congolese Labour Party. There are ethical sources which most companies and individuals can obtain them from. An exception for unethically sourced “green” products is rare earth metals from China, mostly for magnets in wind subsidy farms with massive human health and environmental destruction. Greentards love that. Onward ho, comrades!

    91

  • #
    Greg in NZ

    To paraphrase the scripted verbiage of a certain pigtailed, super-powered, celebrity school-dropout actress from Sweden: Who’s stealing whose dreams?

    70

  • #
  • #
    James Murphy

    Assuming no physical damage from hailstorms and the like, what actually fails on solar panels – I mean what fails to the point of having to genuinely replace the whole panel after a couple of decades, rather than just the external box/wiring?

    10

  • #
    Ross

    When oil and gas exploration efforts are made they generally have a contractual obligation to “clean up’ their site after they leave, similarly with mining activities. So exactly the same should apply to wind and solar farms –they legally should have to pay for the removal and destruction of their structures and not be allowed to just dump it in landfills.

    While, in principle, the same should apply to residential solar panels, you would then have to apply what ever measures were decided on for them to all electronic products –eg. computers and TVs.

    50

  • #
    Serge Wright

    A good idea would be to dump the old panels outside Adam Bandt’s office. When the mountain of panels blocks his street and starts to shadow the entire suburb, he might get the message.

    100

    • #
      David Maddison

      He will never get the message. Being a Leftist involves what is essentially an information processing disorder. No matter how many facts or how much logic they are presented with they still don’t “get it”. As well, they tend to operate in a moral vacuum so in addition, are unconstrained by traditional standards of morality.

      91

      • #
        PeterS

        Hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, we have the added problem that so called good politicians say or do nothing about it and in some cases make policies that align with the anti-West pro-socialist agenda. That includes people like PM Morrison wrt emissions reductions and his al00f attitude on coal. Go figure. As is often quoted “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing”.

        60

    • #
      Ian

      Serge,
      Great idea, but for the foreseeable future no one outside of 5km from Bandt’s office can dump their panels on his street. And I’m betting that DD has already determined that anybody reading these messages is of the ‘wrong’ side and will be arrested on site if they come near Melbourne. And dumping solar panels…. well, that’s just anti everything that DD stands for.

      21

  • #
    John

    A lot of panels made in China during a 2 year period around 10 years ago had low grade plastic backing that is deteriorating far faster than it should so a large chunk of panels put in around 10 years ago are going to start failing around now and when one in series fails it massively affects the efficiency of the others unless they have added electronics to avoid that issue which few sites did. There will be a lot of cheap second-hand panels on the market soon so avoid them like the plague. https://techxplore.com/news/2020-03-uncovers-potential-driver-premature-solar.html

    40

    • #

      Thanks for the tip and the link John.

      “Cracks in backsheets often show up first near certain features—such as the grid-shaped space in between the blue or black electricity-producing solar cells—and can eventually propagate through the entire thickness of a sheet. These defects make way for oxygen and moisture to infiltrate and damage the interior where the cells lie and also allow electrical current to escape, increasing risks of electrocution.

      If left outside for long enough, any plastic-based backsheet will start to fall apart, but not all backsheets are created equal. Some plastics deteriorate much more rapidly than others.”

      20

  • #

    [...] and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. Mega-tons of solar panel thrash may be coming to a town near you soon, as the developing countries of Africa and Asia refuse to be the dump for Western [...]

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