Where will RECYCLED solar panels be in the next fifteen years? Big profit potential may be ahead.

Solar panel module RECYCLING forecasts profit potential.

Twenty-five is a significant anniversary in the life cycle of a solar panel. Why? Because it’s the average lifespan of when a solar panel becomes insufficient at producing electricity, as well as, when the solar companies no longer warranty the output of their panels.  And that can mean only one thing; time for that hunk of crystalline silicon to go to the bone yard. But what happens next? Donate the still moderately working panels to a third world country?  Use them as a coffee table, a storage rafter, perhaps?  But there’s a better idea in the works too… recycling.  Just in time.  In about fifteen years, we’re looking at a serious trash onslaught of homeless solar panels.

A report from Global Data shows us a crystal ball image into the world of solar panel recycling and it could look pretty if we tackle the litany of chemicals associated with dismantling each panel.  According to the firm’s report, end stage PV modules are expected to produce 24,855 tons of waste in 2025. By 2035, the amount is expected to increase to a staggering 1,161,173 tons.

Is there a potential solar trash gold rush on the horizon?  Let’s take a look at the prognosticated financial opportunities of the future.   In 2025, a PV module is expected to generate $0.58 per watt in recycled value, increasing to $1.21 per watt in 2035. Substantiating these figures are the gain in solar panel installations from 2000 to 2010, as well as a forecasted increase in recycling rates.  Lastly, a rise in the market price of solar module materials, such as raw materials, including glass and aluminum adds to the mix.  In all, the total value of recycled crystalline modules is expected to increase from $122 million in 2025 to $12.9 billion by 2035.

The evident demand for solar module recycling will soon become part of the electronic waste, or e-waste stream. Today, the vast majority of e-waste that doesn’t go to the landfill ends up in third world countries, where precautions for preventing toxic exposure to humans, wildlife and the environment are disregarded.  Hence, one organization working to monitor the solar industries recycling practices is the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.  SVTC holds the solar industry to its credo, heralding PV as a truly sustainable energy resource.  “In doing so, it works toward polices that reduce the use of toxic chemicals in PV, implementing environmentally and socially responsible recycling systems, and insuring that workers are protected at every stage of the global PV supply chain”.

“SVTC’s annual Solar Score Card” grades solar manufacturers according to standards of product recycling, worker health and safety, chemical use and life-cycle analysis and company disclosure statements. In 2011, the top-ranking manufacturers were SolarWorld, Trina Solar, First Solar, REC and Abound Solar”.

Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar brokering and solar energy consulting services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.  For more information, please visit

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