Solar Waste – What’s the state of solar panel recycling?

Solar waste is a currently unavoidable byproduct of Australia’s obsession with solar power. But what do we do with these panels when they reach end of life? Let’s take a look at solar panel recycling and what the current climate is, helped by a recent ABC Radio show about the topic.

Solar Waste and solar panel recycling – a primer.

We wrote about recycling solar panels back in January, but a new interview with Reclaim PV (who we talk about in the other article too) has some more information about this critical issue. 

A radio program by the ABC had some very interesting thoughts on the topic – you can listen to it here

The panel included:

  • Jeremy Hunt, solar panel installer
  • Professor Rodney Stewart, Griffith University
  • Clive Fleming, solar panel recycler, Reclaim PV
  • Andrew Gilhooly, Sunpower

With two million houses in Australia now enjoying the fruits of renewable energy and installing solar on their rooftop, their lifespan of 10-15-20 years is now starting to slowly fizzle out, especially for the early adopters. However there’s a huge issue to do with disposing of the solar PV waste in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Professor Rodney Stewart from Griffith University estimates that by 2050, we’ll have 1,500 kilotons of solar waste which will be sent to landfill unless we can figure out a more intelligent way to dispose of something supposed to help the environment. 

Solar Waste - Reclaim PV
Solar Waste – Reclaim PV (source: reclaimpv.com)

The only company in Australia to recycle panels is Reclaim PV in Adelaide, who take in 50,000 per year, but only panels manufactured without toxic chemicals. They then, according to owner Clive Fleming,

“…get the cells, completely separate that as well for the silver contacts, the aluminium and then the silicone to provide those back out to industry.”

According to the ABC program host Emilia Terzon, the Federal Government says it’s committed $167 million to an Australian recycling investment plan and state and federal environment ministers are expected to discuss how to tackle solar waste when they meet later this year. The Government is looking to set rules around how the industry deals with dead solar panels – adding them to the Product Stewardship Act, which mandates how electronic waste is dealt with.

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year 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.

Watch this space. There will be plenty more on this topic as panels continue to reach EOL (end of life) and the policymakers are forced into action. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW could be set to commence towards the end of 2019 – let’s take a look at the system and how to apply for it.

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

The Empowering Homes program is going to support the installation of up to 300,000 solar-battery systems across New South Wales in the next 10 years, providing interest free solar battery loans to eligible residents. The loans will offer up to $9,000 for a battery system, or $14,000 for a solar battery system. As long as your household has a combined income of less than $180,000, you’ll be eligible for the scheme (subject to normal loan assessment criteria).

Empowering Homes interest free solar in NSW
Empowering Homes – Interest free solar in NSW. (source: energy.nsw.gov.au)

The scheme, which is using $50m redirected from a cancelled virtual power plant program, is still missing a lot of information. According to the official website it aims to ‘unlock up to $3.2 billion in clean energy investment, adding up to 3,000 megawatt hours of storage into the NSW energy system when complete’. 

“I want to deliver a program that provides robust consumer protections in terms of safety, system performance and value for money,” NSW Minister for Energy, Matt Kean, said in comments reproduced on the NSW Government’s website.

According to Solar Quotes and statistics provided by the Australian PV Institute, New South Wales’ solar penetration (at ~19%) is quite far behind Queensland (34.1%), South Australia (33.5%), and Western Australia (27.6%). 

According to figures from the Government website, “a household with a $500 quarterly electricity bill could save up to $285 a year on their bills while repaying the no-interest loan. Savings could increase to over $2000 a year once the loan is repaid.”

For further information about battery systems please visit Energy Saver NSW.

If you’re like to register your interest in the Empowering Homes program and also receive updates as they become available, please click here and fill in the form at the bottom of the website. According to the official site the first battery/solar-battery systems will be available for install in summer 19/20. 

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Daintree microgrid project | Hydrogen

The Daintree microgrid project has been funded almost $1m by the federal government. It’s set to become Australia’s first solar to hydrogen microgrid and will replace reliance on an expensive and polluting diesel system. Let’s learn more about it! 

Daintree microgrid project

Daintree Microgrid Project (source: Killerscene via Wikipedia)
Daintree Microgrid Project (source: Killerscene via Wikipedia)

The grant amount is $990,150 which will go to the Daintree Renewable Energy Pty Ltd company, as per an article in Energy Magazine, which also noted that the fund will complement the AEMO’s review of microgrids and the regulatory bodies which will govern them, created by the government in August of last year.

Russell O’Doherty, president of Daintree Renewable Energy, was quoted in an interview with Newsport:

“This power will be used to help power the hydrogen cell; the hydrogen gas produced will be collected and stored and used to fuel large scale generators. The only by product of this system is hot water,” he said.

“This is absolutely fantastic news for the environmentally-conscious Daintree community,” Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch also weighed in:

“Far North Queenslanders, especially those living in the Daintree, are extremely passionate about their natural environment and this announcement is a big win for the entire region.”

“The proposed microgrid will store energy generated by new and existing solar panels by converting it to hydrogen, generating reliable power and reducing the World Heritage Area’s reliance on diesel fuel to generate power, with consumption currently estimated at around 4 million litres of diesel per annum,” Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.

However it’s not all peachy in the Daintree – the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group is clashing with Daintree Renewable Energy with regards to reticulated power north of Daintree. According to PV Magazine Australia, the DSSG is concerned the renewable project could result in long term damage to the world heritage environment and to tourism. You can learn more about that by clicking here. Watch this space to see what happens there, but surely moving from diesel to solar is a no brainer! 

 

 

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Redeployable solar trial at shopping centres

Redeployable solar is a very interesting topic as the issue of solar panel recycling comes to the fore. This week ARENA have announced funding for redeployable commercial solar via Australian startup Solpod. 

Redeployable solar

Redeployable solar – on Friday the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced funding for an Australian start up (Solpod Pty Ltd (Solpod)) to trial the installation of movable solar panels on commercial and government building rooftops. 

According to a post on the ARENA website, the startup has undertaken trials with ARENA, ERM Power, GPT and Property NSW.

Redeployable Solar Solpod
Redeployable Solar Solpod (source: solpod.com

Arena CEO Darren Miller, who took over from previous head Ivor Frischknecht last year, was quoted discussing the redeployable solar and their partnership with Solpod:

“Solpod’s new way of installing solar will pave the way for businesses who were previously locked out of rooftop solar to take up renewable energy solutions and options under shorter term power purchase agreements.

“This Australian start up will help to accelerate solar PV innovation and allows for renewable energy alternatives in niche markets, providing a cost-competitive alternative to standard methods of fixed mounting for delivering rooftop grid connected solar PV,” Mr Miller said.

There were also some comments from founder and CEO of Solpod James Larratt, who discussed the new ‘game-changing’ tech:

“Despite rooftop solar being cheaper and more sustainable than the grid, many businesses have made the rational decision to not adopt solar because of other factors such as length of commitment, disruption on site and damage to buildings. Solpod is the game-changer that removes these barriers and enables businesses to capture the savings in energy costs.”

“Solpod’s solution can adapt to meet individual business needs. For businesses that rent their premises, Solpod can offer short-term contracts to match lease terms. For landlords, Solpod allows flexibility for changing site use and will not damage the roof,” he said.

You can learn more about Solpod’s relocatable commercial solar via their website.

 

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Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria announced some more details of their solar homes package yesterday – and one of the interesting things that came out of this announcement were some specifics on what constitutes a ‘smart inverter’. 

Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria’s Solar Homes Package provides a rebate up to $2,225 or 50% of the price of a solar power system. This is in addition to Australia’s country-wide solar subsidy (STCs). They’re also responsible for solar battery rebates in Victoria and offer an affordable and exciting way to install solar and/or energy storage at your premises. 

“Victorians have been enthusiastic about adopting renewable energy technology, to take charge of their power bills and help protect the environment,” Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio was quoted online as saying. “Ensuring all new systems are equipped with smart inverters will mean we have a more responsive grid that can handle the rapid uptake of renewable energy.”

With the concept of a ‘smart inverter’ being somewhat of a misnomer, in that it’s not really clear what would make an inverter smart. Solar Quotes initially called it a ‘buzzword’, but, with the release of the Government’s Notice To Market, we are now able to discuss the functionalities an inverter will have to have if can be rebated by the Victorian Solar Homes Package:

a) “Enhanced Anti-Islanding”

No inverter is an island. “Normal” anti-islanding refers to turning off the inverter as soon as grid power is lost, as it has the possibility to damage grid equipment and can also be very dangerous for those on the grid trying to fix things up (as it can turn a ‘dead’ power line into something you really don’t want to be working on). A ‘smart inverter’ would have an inverter which complies with international standard IEC 62116, a comprehensive standard to ensure the inverter is able to work well above minimum safety requirements. 

b) Volt-Watt / Volt-Var

These features “facilitate greater penetration of distributed energy sources (DER) by automatically improving power quality”, as per the Victorian Government. This isn’t a major issue as their Notice to Market notes that 95% of inverter installations under the rebate scheme have installed suitable brands with these options, (and, indeed, 95% of the inverters have ‘enhanced anti-islanding’. 

It’s great to get some clarification on this and we’re excited to see how the rest of the solar homes package ends up. 

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