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Used Solar Panels are Disposed or Reused?

Last week, the Department of Energy announced an action plan aimed at assisting the US in establishing a comprehensive system for processing and recycling Solar Panels, which according to some assessments might account for a tenth of all electronic trash in the coming decades.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office has set a new goal of lowering the cost of Solar Panels recycling to around $3 per panel by 2030, a level that would make the technique economically viable for the first time. This follows an earlier DOE target to reduce the cost of solar power by half by the end of the decade.

According to the agency, which is part of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, solar could supply 37 to 42 percent of the system’s power by 2035, meeting the Biden administration’s target of a carbon-free grid by that year. According to DOE’s solar researchers, the increased recycling aim would result in a cost decrease of “more than half.” According to prior studies from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it would also make recycling approximately as cost-effective as shipping old panels to landfills, a procedure that costs $1 to $5 per panel before transportation expenses are taken in (NREL).

To meet the goal, the solar office wants to close a knowledge gap on what happens to Solar Panels once they’ve served their purpose. But one thing is certain for the solar industry: figuring out how to recycle outdated panels — or repurpose pieces like the precious metals commonly found in them — is a looming hurdle.

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