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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WePower partner with Marubeni Corporation

Renewable energy procurement and start-up platform WePower have secured a strategic equity investment via Japanese investment/trading corporation Marubeni Corporation. A press release was published this morning. Let’s take a look and see what this could mean for businesses looking to purchase renewable energy on a scale they’re comfortable with. 

WePower partner with Marubeni Corporation

You might remember WePower’s ICO at the start of last year – the blockchain-based green energy trading platform has enjoyed a massive financial coup by partnering with Marubeni Corporation. This will support rapid expansion of their ‘disruptive green energy procurement platforms’. This is really exciting news for a company we have been watching for a couple of years. We’re looking forward to seeing what their attitude towards PPAs for smaller (‘almost any’) companies will fare – so you don’t have to go all out on commercial solar (such as the XXXX brewery at Milton’s solar installation) and can just buy what you need at a smaller level.

WePower sees Australia as one of the fastest growing markets globally for power purchase agreements (PPA) and this investment will help bring green energy to corporate and industrial consumers from around Australia.

According to a press release from today, WePower Standardised Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) streamline risk management and introduce previously non-existent liquidity for the energy purchased via direct energy contracts.

Nikolaj Martyniuk, WePower’s Co-founder and CEO, says the investment was secured because of deep synergies with Marubeni Corporation’s Power Business Division.

 “We are delighted to work in partnership with Marubeni Corporation to develop and introduce new commercial energy services, as well as scale our solutions globally to markets including Australia.”

“Two-thirds of the energy produced worldwide is consumed by commercial and industrial clients. So, any meaningful change towards a fully sustainable future is not possible without enabling more corporate and industrial consumers to participate in the green energy revolution.

 “To date, only the largest global corporations have been able to access renewable power sources by directly purchasing from a producer. The complexity of this process has created a barrier for smaller companies looking to integrate renewables into their energy mix and contribute to the growth of green energy development,” Nikolaj continues in the press release

Yoshiaki Yokota, Chief Operating Officer, Power Business Division, Marubeni Corporation discussed the deal:

 “We did it by disrupting the traditional energy supplier business model with a deep focus on big data and a radically different approach to energy sourcing, management and trading. We believe WePower is in a unique position to disrupt the traditional corporate energy procurement markets by allowing almost any company to buy energy directly from renewable producers.”

Learn more about WePower by visiting their website.

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Lightyear One Solar Car – Long Range Prototype

The Dutch solar automobile manufacturer Lightyear have a new prototype which is of a long rage solar car. The car, known as Lightyear One, can supposedly go up to 800km without a charge and it also has solar power

Lightyear One Solar Car – Long Range Prototype

Lightyear One Solar Car - Long Range Prototype
Lightyear One Solar Car – Long Range Prototype (source: lightyear.one)

The car’s been touted by Lightyear as ‘the electric car that charges itself’ as it was announced at Lightyear HQ in Katwijk, NL. It claims 12km/hour of solar charging, which means that you could drive to work 30km, park for 8 hours, and drive it back home without ever plugging it in. “Level 2” charging is 22kW and level 3 boosts 60kW for faster charging.

The Lightyear One website explains the way solar has been integrated into this car: “Unlike conventional solar panels, our cells function independently. This means that even if part of the roof or hood is in shadow, the other cells continue to efficiently collect solar energy. In fact, our solar cells provide about 20% more energy than traditional ones.”

“Two years of dreaming, thinking and working hard have led to this milestone, which is a giant leap towards achieving our mission of making clean mobility available to everyone,” Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot said.

Discussing some of the issues with the current stock of electric cars and charging them via renewable energy, Hoefsloot had more to say about the Lightyear One and how it could possibly work in a home ecosystem:

“We are solving these issues with what we call ultra-efficiency. On one hand, that will lead to an exceptional range of 725 km (WLTP) on a relatively small battery. On the other hand, it can charge directly from the sun because its energy consumption is much lower, generating up to 20,000 km worth of energy per year. Moreover, all of the charging options out there become easier to use because you get a lot more range for the same amount of energy charged. So, effectively, you charge a lot faster from any power outlet. You can charge up to 400 km per night from ordinary 230V sockets. That’s great for road trips because you don’t need a charging infrastructure.” Hoefsloot continued, as reported by Electrek.

Lightyear One Energy Range
Lightyear One Energy Range

Perhaps they’d like to park the car at the award winning USQ solar carpark?

In any case, here’s a video of the car, which is expected to cost around $170,000 USD (~$242,000 AUD). Lightyear are currently taking orders for it so click here and visit the official website if you’re interested in learning more about this amazing car! It releases in 2021 and 

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XXXX Beer and Commercial Solar

A rooftop solar system has been installed at the Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Milton, Brisbane. The XXXX brewery is a local institution and to think that it’ll now be brewed by using renewable power will make it taste even more sweet! Or bitter. I’m not sure of the correct parlance. Anyway. Solar powered milton mangoes. Let’s learn more!

XXXX Beer and Commercial Solar

XXXX Beer and Commercial Solar
XXXX Beer and Commercial Solar (source: lionco.com)

The iconic XXXX brewery has become the latest private company to install commercial solar. Given the price considerations are dropping as the electricity prices remain volatile, more and more companies are taking the leap and investing in commercial solar systems.

A posting on the official Lion website notes that the $2m project has been completed and the 690-kilowatt system will generate approximately 1,368,000 kilowatt hours every year.

“This will reduce the site’s annual carbon emissions by about 1260 tonnes, which is about seven per cent of CO2 emissions from electricity used at XXXX,” Lion’s Group Supply Chain Director Ian Roberts (sadly not the footy player) said.

“We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and being a good neighbour to the many residents and businesses that call Milton home.

“And we will keep the big yellow wheel in place on Milton Road just as a reminder of how far we’ve come. It is change like this that has allowed us to preserve the brewery’s rich history and keep making Queensland’s favourite beer. This is something everyone at XXXX is very proud of.  In addition to the solar power system, we have also installed a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis plant which reuses waste water – enabling XXXX Gold to be produced at a ratio of 2.8 litres of water for every litre of beer produced, which is approaching world-leading levels of efficiency for brewing,” Mr Roberts continued.

I don’t actually know what the big yellow wheel is, but I’ve reached out to Lion. Sounds mildly interesting. Watch this space! 

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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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