Recycling Solar Panels | What to do with old solar panels.

Recycling solar panels is a topic which will be a lot more prevalent as the initial ‘wave’ panels begin to reach their end of life. Let’s take a look at what the plans are for trying to minimise the environmental impact and maximise the value  of a used solar panel.

Recycling Solar Panels | Will there be a waste crisis for old panels?

Australia has one of the highest PV solar uptakes in the world. There are plenty of us who have had solar installed for a long time. So long, in fact, that people are talking about end of life strategies to dispose of/ repurpose solar panels, so that they don’t cause a problem for the environment. 

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel has been crusading for the implementation of such strategies for solar panels, calling it a ‘systemic problem’:

“We’ve had a solar panel industry for years which is an important environmental initiative, and it should have been incumbent on government to act in concert with the growth of the industry so we have an environmentally responsible end-of-life strategy,” he said in a quote to the Sydney Morning Herald.

We’ve written previously about solar panel recycling and, although it’s good to see things like the ELSi project in Germany, there’s still a ways to go before we figure out the best way forward to recycle solar waste.

Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels
Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels (source: reclaimpv.com)

According to the director of Reclaim PV (the only dedicated photovoltaic recycler in Australia), Clive Fleming, they company recycles 90 per cent of materials in a panel. The company has been lobbying for state bans on landfill disposal of solar panels. 

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the SMH about how a proper plan for recycling PV cells could have a positive effect on the economy:

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

We expect over the coming year or two we’ll hear a lot more about this, with Sustainability Victoria working on a ‘national approach to photovoltaic product stewardship’, with their recommendations presented to the environment ministers around the middle of this year. 

Victoria have already announced they’ll ban electronic waste in landfill from July 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how the other states follow suit.
 

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Solar Panel Degradation | New Software

Solar panel degradation is a big issue, and one of the problems with it is that it can be a bit nebulous to measure, especially if you’re off-site. An Indian university may have some answers with regards to measuring this in a cost and time effective method.

Solar Panel Degradation | Alternatives to on-site inspection.

Parveen Bhola is a research scholar at India’s Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology. Alongside Saurabh Bhardwaj, an associate professor at Thapar, the pair have developed and optimised statistical and machine learning-based alternatives to enable real-time on or off-site inspection of solar panels to measure the solar panel degradation. This is achieved throughout the usage of clustering-based computation – utilising historical meteorological data to compete performance ratios and solar panel degradation. Factors such as temperature, pressure, wind speed, solar power created, sunshine hours, humidity and historical performance are all utilised to come up with a measurement of the panels’ effectiveness. 

“The majority of the techniques available calculate the degradation of PV (photovoltaic) systems by physical inspection on site. This process is time-consuming, costly, and cannot be used for the real-time analysis of degradation,” Bhola said in a quote posted on TechXplore. “The proposed model estimates the degradation in terms of performance ratio in real time.”

As solar panel technology increases, it’s important that our tools for troubleshooting and optimising their output be improved commensurately; this is a great step for all solar system holders, but especially those in rural areas where having someone come on site is cost and time prohibitive. With this new technique it’s likely that troubleshooting will be more efficient and perhaps even point out problems before they occur. 

Solar Panel Degradation - Thapar Insitute of Engineering and Technology
Solar Panel Degradation – Thapar Insitute of Engineering and Technology (source: Thapar.edu)

The article, “Clustering-based computation of degradation rate for photovoltaic systems,” can be found in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018 (DOI: 10.1063/1.5042688). You can also find it online: https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.5042688.

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Karadoc Solar Farm | Solar Farms in Victoria

The Karadoc Solar Farm has launched and is currently exporting power to the grid – making it the biggest solar farm in Victoria (for now). 

Karadoc Solar Farm

Karadoc Solar Farm
Karadoc Solar Farm (source: baywa-re.com.au)

The 112MW Karadoc Solar Farm can power over 110,000 homes. It’s located 35km south of Mildura and is being built by German-based energy company Bay-Wa. With 112MW it is just marginally larger than the Bannerton solar park, which outputs 110MW and is responsible for powering solar powered trams in Melbourne

As per this article from RenewEconomy, brewer Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) has contracted the entire output of the project in its goal to become 100% powered by renewable energy. 

“This represents an important step in CUB’s commitment to 100 per cent of its electricity being sourced from renewables,” said CUB CEO Jan Craps at the time.

There are a number of large-scale solar farms in Victoria in various stages of their life cycle, but all will be online by summer 2018/19:

  • Bannerton Solar Farm (110MW)
  • Karadoc Solar Farm (112MW)
  • Yatpool Solar Farm (81MW – Also a Bay-Wa project)
  • Wemen Solar Farm (110MW – also known as the Wemen Sun Farm)
  • Ganawarra Solar Farm (50MW – Live)
  • Swan Hill Solar Farm (15MW – Live)
  • Kiamal Solar Farm (265MW DC – won’t be completed until the middle of next year)

This isn’t even mentioning the 928MW which will be generated via three solar and wind farms as per a recent Victoria government renewable energy tender. 

Daniel Gäfke, Managing Director of BayWa r.e. Solar Pte Ltd. “The Karadoc solar farm is the largest installation ever undertaken by BayWa r.e and is a great showcase of our ability to procure, design and build projects of this size anywhere in the world. Australia is a very important market for us and this investment is testament to the commitment we have to help increase Australia’s renewable energy capacity.”

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Kiamal solar project launched, may add 194MW more.

The official launch of the Kiamal solar project was held in Victoria on Wednesday. The 265MW (DC) solar plant has plans to double its output by adding another 194MW in the future at some point.

Kiamal solar project

Kiamal Solar Project
Kiamal Solar Project (source: Total-Eren Press Release (LinkedIn))

The Kiamal solar project is owned and being run by Total Eren (formerly two separate companies), a renewable energy company based in France whose $300m investment in the project has raised the ire of the Australian Energy Market Operator, who have implemented tough new conditioned for those wanting to install wind and solar in Victoria’s ‘full’ grid (click here to read a great article from the AFR about it). They commented that Total Eren had ‘misjudged’ the system strength requirements and said there could be an issue with adding a farm this size to the noth-west Victorian grid.

Luckily the team at Total Eren (or Total-Eren, depending on how French you are) have agreed to add an expensive ‘synchronous condenser’ to help stabilise the grid. AFR report that the cost is estimated to be in the ‘tens of millions of dollars’ so this is certainly quite the olive branch. 

An official statement from the company noted that the company had acquiesced to AEMO’s requests “…in order to facilitate a timely connection … substantially strengthening the grid in the region and making it possible to connect even more renewables in north-west Victoria”.

The team are now looking into adding 380MWh of energy storage and 194MWh of solar in a second or third stage, as per executive vice-president Fabienne Demol. 

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin spoke at the Financial Review National Energy Summit and explained the situation a little further:

“There are plenty of people who want to advance new renewable energy generation options here in NSW, but transmission is a huge constraint and that is why we are ahead of the game, out there with our own strategy, carefully reviewing all the work AEMO has done in the ISP to make sure it works for NSW consumers ,but whatever we do we will be doing it in a way to make sure it doesn’t lead to upward pressure on prices because that is our critical focus and that is the assurance that we will give.”

Click here to learn more about the PPA Kiamal solar farm signed with Flow Power earlier this year. 

They’ve also signed Alinta Energy and Mars Australia after losing Meridian Energy earlier this year due to construction delays. The Kiamal solar farm will be completed by the middle of 2019. 

 

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Congupna solar farm / Design and Development Guidelines

The Congupna solar farm has been approved for the Shepparton area and will produce 30MW of energy – this is enough to power 10,000 homes in the region.

Congupna solar farm

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced the successful Congupna solar farm approval this morning. 

According to Minister Wynne the farm will create over 100 solar jobs for the region: 

“The Congupna solar farm will create more than 100 new jobs and produce 30 megawatts of new, clean energy – helping to drive down energy prices.”

 “We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs” he continued.

The Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work on Goulburn Murray Irrigation District is completed.

As per the official press release, the Labor Government in Victoria will invest over $1.3b to put solar panels, hot water, and batters in 720,000 homes, as part of their Solar Homes Program.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio was equally impressed by the project, discussing how they will be able to affect climate change and electricity prices:

“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna.”

 “We’re creating jobs, driving down power prices and combatting climate change with the biggest investment in renewable energy in Victoria’s history” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

According to Shepparton News, Mr Wynne’s office stressed in a press release that the Congupna facility “will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land” and is projected to create almost $40 million in capital expenditure.

Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines

At the same time, Minister Wynne released a draft version of the design and development guidelines for solar energy facilities. They’ll help councils, developers, and communities ensure they build solar farms suitable for everybody. Although we’ve seen many successful large-scale solar farm rollouts in Australia, solar farm opposition is still a bit of an issue for some developments. Hopefully these guidelines help clear up what is and isn’t suitable for large-scale solar! 

 

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