Solar Panel Recycling | ELSi Project in Germany

Solar panel recycling – German engineering company Geltz Umwelt-Technologie has successfully developed an advanced recycling plant for obsolete or ageing solar panels. This has been funded by the EU and is known as the ELSi project. 

Solar Panel Recycling and Geltz

Solar Panel Recycling - Geltz
Solar Panel Recycling – Geltz (source: geltz.de)

Phys.Org have been reporting an interview with Fabian Geltz from Geltz Umwelt-Technologie:

“Solar module layers are bonded together with polymers that make mechanical separation and treatment of solar module components almost impossible,” said Geltz.

Exploring ways to ensure that valuable components do not end up in landfills was at the heart of ELSi’s mission. “Up until now, there has not been any technical solution to recycle and separate the valuable materials from the mixed scrap. The critical step in the recycling process is therefore the destruction of the polymer layers,” Geltz noted.

The main issue is deciding which parts of the panel are good to recycle, and how to salvage the used panels without too much energy/cost. 

ELSi came up with a very clever idea to solve this problem. Using an energy-efficient pyrolysis process (which involves decomposition brought about by high temperatures), fellow research partners were able to to dissolve the unwanted polymer layers and detach the glass inside the solar panels. This process allowed ELSi to separate and recover aluminium, glass, silver, copper, tin and silicon in their pure forms.

“Thanks to the successful recovery of materials and components, the unusable solar module can become a valuable source of raw materials for the future,” the company advised.

According to Phys.Org, the new facility could process around 50,000 solar modules every year. As solar power technology increases and we start seeing more used old solar panels, it’s fantastic there’s a way we can work on salvage and reclamation so we don’t just needlessly waste the materials. 

Solar recycling is only going to get bigger as the industry grows – so it’s super important to improve this technology before we end up with a surfeit of old solar panels causing damage to the environment.

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Tesla in Australia 2018/2019 – Facts & Figures

Tesla have announced their Q2 earnings which notes that they have a ‘crazy’ growth outlook despite cell shortage and a slow deployment of their solar roof. Tesla in Australia is still very far behind the USA, but what can we expect the future to bring?

Tesla in Australia – 2018/19

What can Australians expect from Tesla over the next financial year? We’ve had an agonisingly slow rollout down under and there are many people waiting to see how long it takes for the solar roof to make its way out here.

With the cell shortage that has crippled availability of the Tesla Powerwall 2 in Australia, is it worth waiting for the Powerwall 3 instead? There hasn’t been any announcement yet so it really depends on your personal situation. 

The Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York is in working on speeding up production of the Solar Roof. They hope to produce 1 GW of solar products at the site annually beginning in 2019, and Tesla has said that it could even reach 2 GW/year down the track. The Gigafactory produces standard solar panels, along with the Solar Roof.

So if you have a bit of patience and are happy to wait until 2019, it’s fine to wait. Solar batteries still have a bit of a ways to go before they are a no-brainer for people to install, let alone the solar roof. But in the meantime, there are certainly solar roof alternatives like the Tractile solar roof tile or the Sonnen/Bristile partnership which they’ve called ‘Solartile‘. Have you got any questions or any experience with any of these solar shingles? Please let us know in the comments. 

Where is the Tesla Solar Roof?

Tesla in Australia - Solar Roof via @Toblerhaus on Twitter
Tesla in Australia – Tesla Solar Roof 2018 Installation (California) (source: @Toblerhaus on Twitter)

We’ve written about the Tesla Solar Roof before – and we’ve also written about its place in the Australian ecosystem, given that they’re rare as hen’s teeth in America, let alone over here. According to PV Magazine USA, it’s probable that the Tesla Solar Roof will not help their bottom line (Energy Generation and Division Revenues) until halfway through 2019 at the earliest. The reasons for this are for safety and the time lag it’s taking to get all their ducks in a row.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk clarified:

“It takes a while to confirm that the Solar Roof is going to last for 30 years and all the details work out, and we’re working with first responders to make sure it’s safe in the event of a fire and that kind of thing. So it’s quite a long validation program for a roof which has got to last for 30, 40, 50 years, but we also expect to ramp that up next year at our Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. That’s going to be super exciting.”

According to Musk ‘several hundred’ Solar Roofs have been deployed, are being installed or scheduled for install, and international expansion (i.e. Australia!) is slowly rolling out.

PV Magazine have also written about some of the first solar roof installations in the USA – please click here to read some more about them.

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Buy black solar panels in Australia – cost, review & more.

Today we’ll take a look at black solar panels. How do they perform compared to conventional panels? What are the best brands? And where can you buy them in Australia if you’re so inclined?

Where to buy black solar panels in Australia

Canadian Solar’s robust All-Black panels (CS6K-MS modules – click for datasheet) with 60 solar cells are specifically targeted for consumers in the residential market. 

Sunpower’s residential solar panel X-Series are, according to their website, offered in SunPower® Signature™ Black, “designed to blend harmoniously into your roof.” Built using all-black solar cells and anti-reflective glass to reduce glare, the premium aesthetics can accommodate a variety of architectural styles. Note that they didn’t mention performance at all – but if ‘premium aesthetics’ are important to you then these could be worth checking out (the black panels have 10W less output).

LG Solar’s NeON 2 solar panel comes in conventional colouring and also black. According to the datasheets the black panel is 4.4% larger in order to reach the 315/320 watt output of its less flamboyant solar sibling.

Black solar panels are more expensive and perform slightly worse than blue solar panels. With that said, if looks are important to you some quality manufacturers have some options – you certainly can’t go wrong with LG or Sunpower – and if you have a surfeit of space on your roof the extra 4.4% isn’t going to be a big deal.

Have you got any experience with black solar panels or would like to ask us any questions on them? Please sound off in the comments and we’d be happy to help.

Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia
Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia (source: sunpower.com)

Are black solar panels less efficient?

Solar cells can have polycrystalline cells, which have multiple crystals and appear blue, or monocrystalline cells, which are cut from one large crystal and appear much darker than the poly cells. The monocrystalline cells are more expensive and are the ones black solar panels are made out of. These solar panels are made when you use a black backing sheet instead of the conventional white and place the darker monocrystalline cells on it – the panel then appears black (or close enough).

This is, however, only to do with aesthetics – you won’t get any better performance from a black solar panel. In fact, ironically enough solar panel performance degrades the hotter the module gets, and the black backing sheet absorbs more heat – so you’d want to make sure black is super important to you! 

 

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Can you walk on solar panels? Solar panel durability.

Can you walk on solar panels? We could probably answer this article with one word – no. But let’s take a look at how walking on solar panels damages them – with cracks, damaged cells (which are impossible to see with the naked eye), and more. We’ll also investigate some of the most durable solar panels you can buy in 2018.

Can you walk on solar panels
Can you walk on solar panels? (source: SolarWorld USA via YouTube)

Can you walk on solar panels?

Still no. A running joke between colleagues in the solar industry is when a new ‘cowboy’ outfit comes to town with a bunch of flashy solar marketing – which involves pictures of installers blithely standing or crouching on top of a panel, potentially doing very serious damage to the efficacy of the system. And the fact that the damage compounds over time means it’s sometimes difficult to correlate the problem to find out what happened to make your solar system underperform…

When we talk about walking on solar panels, this doesn’t just mean the glass itself – you need to stay off the rails and frame as well. 

If you absolutely insist on a super-strength solar panel someone light could walk on, or you live somewhere with strong hail/wind/snow loads, SolarWorld have a Sunmodule which is extremely hard. View a video of its endurance here:

Tesla’s Solar Roof also has great durability and is an option for those needing a very strong solar panel. Note that we still recommend you don’t step on this, or any solar panel, unless you have to rescue an ailing baby bird or retrieve a pot of gold. They’re simply not made for it. 

NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have produced a video showing the invisible damage from walking on a solar panel.

According to the video, after a cell is cracked, its power output degenerates far more rapidly than usual (every solar panel’s output decreases with time). Temperature changes (like the difference between day and night, or different seasons) cause thermal expansions and contractions which pull apart the materials around the crack, exacerbating the problem. 

In short – please don’t walk on solar panels. 

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LG MONO X plus and NeON 2 Warranty Increased.

LG’s flagship NeON 2 and LG Mono X Plus solar panels are receiving an extended warranty (15 years) for those who install them from January 1, 2018.  This is five years longer than the Australian industry standard, but not as long as the 25-year product warranty and 87% output warranty LG’s NeON R panels currently offer.

“From design and production to delivery, we follow stringent protocols to ensure the integrity of our solar panels,” said Russ Prendergast, Senior Marketing Manager Solar at LG. “This increase in warranty reflects our confidence that our products can go the distance.”

“We’re proud of our achievements in solar, and our consistent presence in the Intersolar Awards winners list confirms the industry feels the same. But we wanted to give our customers something that benefits them directly,” said Prendergast in a press release quoted by RenewEconomy, “With close to 70 per cent sales growth in the past year, our customers appear to recognise the quality our solar panels deliver.”

More good news for those looking to invest in solar but are concerned about the long term results! 

LG Mono X Plus

LG Mono X Plus Warranty Australia
LG Mono X Plus Warranty Australia (source: lgenergy.com.au)

The fifth generation LG Mono X Plus have long warranties, high efficiency, and as of next year boasts an impressive 25-year warranty.

They come in three different models:

  • Residential 60 Cell 300W – LG300S1C – ‘Entry Model’ – for those that want a great product without the ‘bells and whistles’ of the LG NeON range. (Brochure Here)
  • Residential 60 Cell 295W – LG295S1C-A5 – Fifth generation LG Mono X ® Plus – 25 Year performance warranty. (Brochure Here)
  • Commercial 72 Cell 360W – LG360S2W – Commercial grade, cost-effective module with great performance. (Brochure Here)

Read more about the LG Mono X Plus solar panel in Australia on the LG website.

LG NeON 2

We’ve written an article about the NeON 2 Solar Panel (LG330N1C) which was released earlier this year. The 330W panel is LG’s flagship solar panel and comes highly recommended by all who have tried it!

LG currently have 34 different solar panels for sale so there’s something for everyone – click here to have a look at what they offer and be sure to comment below or email us if you have any questions about a specific panel – we’d be happy to help! 

If you’re interested in the production process i.e. how solar panels are made, LG have produced a video called ‘LG Solar Panel Production Line Tour’ you can view below:

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