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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SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project

American company SolarReserve have signed an MoU with Heliostat SA to manufacture and assemble the components for their solar tower and molten salt storage facility at Port Augusta.

SolarReserve Commence Construction on Aurora Solar Thermal Plant

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project
SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project (source: solarreserve.com)

SolarReserve announced on Tuesday that they’ll work with Heliostat SA to create 12,800 96 square metre glass mirrors for their Aurora Solar Thermal Plant. 

The solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, was announced last August and received developmental approval back in January It is slated to be a $750m project but we haven’t heard any specifics as to updated pricing, and this information is the first news on the project since January of this year. 

According to the CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, the solar thermal power plant will comprise of approximately 12,000 mirrors, each the size of a billboard (around 100sqm), arranged in a circle over 600 hectares. The mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. This will result in over a million square metres of surface area for the project. 

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” Mr. Smith said at the time. He elaborated today when discussing the deal with Heliostat SA: 

“We’re excited to have formed a long-term partnership with Heliostat SA and look forward to teaming up with them to bring manufacturing of our world-class heliostats to South Australian workers,” said Mr. Smith.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry.”

According to an article on RenewEconomy the project will create around 200 full time solar jobs for the area, with 650 to be employed during the construction phase. 

This project is a bit slow and new information is thin on the ground, so great to hear that it’s moving ahead. We’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s any new information on the solar thermal plant! 

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National Energy Guarantee approved by Coalition party room

The NEG (National Energy Guarantee) has been passed by the Coalition party room after a strenuous morning of debate – let’s take a look at what happens next. 

Next Steps For National Energy Guarantee

NEG - National Energy Guarantee
NEG – National Energy Guarantee (source: ABC News: Matt Roberts)

We wrote earlier this week about the NEG approval and how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a very hard road ahead if he’s to push this policy through parliament:

“The Labor Party has to decide whether they want to support cheaper and more reliability electricity,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We have got to bring an end to the years of ideology and idiocy which have been a curse on energy policy for too long and that is why industry – whether you’re talking about big industrial consumers or small business, consumer groups  – are calling on government, governments, and oppositions to get behind this policy.”

The four issues which we discussed earlier this week are still in a state of flux:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The opposition (federal Labor) are also in favour of the NEG but they want the 2030 emissions reduction target increased from 26% to 45%:

“We are still very keen on trying to find a bipartisan way through the deep energy crisis that has emerged under this Prime Minister,” shadow energy and climate change minister Mark Butler said.

“We will continue to fight for a much more ambitious investment setting for this sector so you do see new renewable energy jobs and investment and you do see downward pressure on power prices.”

According to former PM Tony Abbot, the NEG still needs a lot of work as most of its support is currently ‘conditional’ and at least a dozen members of the Coalition had expressed concern about the NEG. Abbot said that the provided explanations of how the NEG “might theoretically get prices down” sounded “like merchant bankers’ gobbledegook”:

‘We’ve got to be loyal to our electorates and to party members too and not show the unity of lemmings.’,” Mr Abbott continued.

The Australian Financial Review has the numbers at 26 MPs supporting the policy and around 10 yet to be convinced. 

For the next steps, the state ministers will be asked to support a month long public consultation on laws which will affect their constituents. The state legislation should then be finalised by the end of October and we’ll see what sort of shape (if any) the NEG is at that point. Federal legislation tied to the NEG will be introduced within the next 10 days. 

 

 

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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Global wind and solar statistics – 1 Terawatt reached!

Global wind and solar statistics – Bloomberg New Energy Finance are reporting that global wind and solar energy capacity reached the 1TW milestone at the end of June this year.

Global wind and solar statistics

Global wind and solar statistics - Wikipedia
Global wind and solar statistics (source: wikipedia.org) (By Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1372121)

According to Wikipedia, renewable energy contributed 19.3% to global energy consumption and 24.5% to the generation of electricity in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This has risen sharply in the past couple of years and research indicates that we will continue to speed above and beyond the trillion watts – which is 1 million MW, or a billion kW, if that makes it easier to understand!

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) release a report this week which is based on their comprehensive and up-to-date database of renewable energy projects. The report notes that 54% of the renewable energy generated was from wind, and 46% represents solar power. This is interesting as it shows how quickly solar is reaching wind power – in 2007 we had 8GW of capacity (around 8% of the world’s renewable energy) – in comparison to wind power which had 89GW.  According to Renew Economy this represents a gigantic increase of 57x of solar’s 2007 statistics. 

With one terawatt out of the way, Business Green have been crunching the numbers with regards to the second one, which will undoubtedly be far faster and far cheaper than the first:

“The BNEF analysts predict that the pace of renewables rollout will accelerate even more in the coming years, with the second terawatt expected to arrive by mid-2023.”

It looks like wind and solar will produce more power than coal in America within the next 10 years. How will the figures be for the rest of the world? How will Australia go given the future of our National Energy Guarantee is shaky at best (not to mention it’s receiving plenty of criticism in either case). How will solar battery storage affect these figures? Will the huge influx of commercial solar system installations help us reach the next terawatt much faster? Watch this space. It’s going to be an exciting few years for renewable energy! 

 

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