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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Sunroof solar mapping tool E.On and Google

The solar partnership between E.ON and Google are bringing their ‘Sunroof’ solar mapping tool to Britain and Italy after great success in Germany and America last year. How long until Google’s Project Sunroof comes to Australia?

Sunroof Solar Mapping Tool

Google Sunroof solar mapping tool
Google Sunroof solar mapping tool in America – could it work in Australia? (site: https://www.google.com/get/sunroof)

We wrote last year about the American rollout of the Project Sunroof which estimated that 79% of all rooftops in America were viable for solar. It resulted in partnerships with SunPower, SunEdison, and Sungevity.

Karsten Wildberger, COO of E.ON spoke about the project: “With Sunroof, we are able to digitise sales of solar systems more intensively and thereby increase the appeal of photovoltaics,” he said.

“It clearly demonstrates the potential benefits of digitalisation for the ongoing shift in energy production. Along with Sunroof and E.ON SolarCloud, we will be developing additional digital products in order to offer our customers the highest degree of independence and security through E.ON solar systems.”

The Project Sunroof solar mapping tools determines the solar potential of millions of buildings (all you need to do is enter your address into the tool) and it will work out using Google’s technology. EON in Germany are reporting that ‘well over’ 10,000 people used the tool to see how viable their rooftop is for solar panel installation. Of course, with the advent of ground solar, it’ll be interesting to see if the tool gets updated to included ground mounted solar. 

After crunching the data, customers in Germany are able to order a solar system consisting of a photovoltaic module and the E.ON SolarCloud, (and Aura battery storage if you want). According to SteelGuru, E.ON also offer what they call a ‘sunshine guarantee’ which says if the solar system doesn’t achieve the amount it projected the company will make up for the shortfall financially. Good old Germans. Remains to be seen how this rollout goes for other countries but we’ll keep you posted.

Google Sunroof Solar Mapping Tool in Australia?

Sadly those in the land down under aren’t able to use the tool – those who do are greeted with “Aw, snap! It looks like we haven’t reached your country yet, but we’re working on it!”

No word from Google if it will come here but we assume it will sooner or later – in the meantime there are a myriad of solar mapping tools already available. These are mostly aimed at solar companies in Australia rather than the end-user.

You can still try a demo – just click here. Gives you a chance to look around all the nice houses in America too.

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Solar panels on new homes mandatory in Cali

Solar panels on new homes will be mandatory for most new homes built in California from 2020 as per new building standards ratified by the California Energy Commission on Wednesday.

Solar panels on new homes

Solar panels on new homes - sunpower
Solar panels on new homes in California to benefit Sunpower (source: sunpower.com.au)

This move is the first in the United States which will provide a welcome boost to solar panel manufacturers and installers. According to the Australian Financial Review, California adds about 80,000 new houses per year. Currently, the California Solar & Storage Association estimates that 15,000, or almost one in five homes come with solar. The new standards are expected to increase demand for solar systems by 10-15%. 

The new mandatory solar scheme will raise the cost of a new home by nearly $10,000, according to estimates. This will mean around $40 USD per month in extra mortgage repayments which will be more than offset by a projected $80 USD saving on energy bills. 

“We cannot let Californians be in homes that are essentially the residential equivalent of gas guzzlers,” Commissioner David Hochschild said before the vote.

 
Tom Werner of SunPower, a San Jose solar company, was naturally rather excited about the prospect, telling people in an interview about his thoughts of the future of solar in the golden state: 
 
“We think it’s another example of California policy preceding what will happen in other markets,” he said.
 
According to a 2017 US Department of Energy report cited by the Energy Commission, just 9% of single family standalone homes in the state (which has 40m residents) currently have solar panels installed. This should increase that nicely, with shaded buildings or buildings with tiny roofs exempt from the new mandatory solar systems.
 
Is it only a matter of time before we see these new guidelines working in new communities alongside companies like Power Ledger, whose microgrid and blockchain technology allows for largely self-contained community solar options?
 
 

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SunPower X-Series Solar Panel Australia

Sunpower have released the X21 model of their X-Series solar panel and it’s now available Australia wide. These durable, efficient and performance-engineered SunPower X-Series solar panels are great if you have a limited amount of space on your roof and want to achieve maximum light-to-energy conversion from your panels! They’re far from the cheapest panel on the market, but if you’re looking at investing in something for the next 25 years in our experience choosing the lowest price when deciding on your solar investment is generally a false economy.

SunPower X-Series Solar Panels

According to the Sunpower site, their X-Series residential panels convert more sunlight to electricity by producing 38% more power per panel and 70% more energy per square meter over
25 years. This is in comparison to  a representative conventional panel: 250 watts, approx. 1.6 m², 15.3% efficiency. They’re available in the SPR-X21-345 which has a Nominal Power (Pnom) of 345 watts, and the SPR-X21-335, which has a Pnom of 335 watts.

Both panels utilise SunPower’s  ‘Maxeon technology’ – which is to say it’s the only solar cell on the market built on a solid copper foundation, making it ‘virtually impervious’ to the corrosion and cracking that inevitably degrade conventional solar panels. This allows SunPower to guarantee 95% efficiency for the first five years, with ~0.4% drops in efficiency per year for 20 years after that (making it a 25 year warranty).

The average panel efficiency of the SPR-X21-335 is 21.0% and the SPR-X21-345 boasts an impressive 21.5% light-to-energy ratio.

SunPower X-Series Solar Panel
SunPower X-Series Solar Panel (source: sunpower.com.au)

Buy SunPower X-Series Solar Panels in Australia

Flex is now the exclusive distributor of SunPower in Australia – but you can click here to schedule a free home assessment directly from the Sunpower website. They also offer financing with no money down so there is an option for everyone.

Do you want more information about the SunPower X-Series Residential Solar Panels? Click to view the Spec Sheet!

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Portable Solar Tech SunSHIFT given $2.1m by ARENA.

The government have announced $2.1m in funding for portable solar tech (‘pop-up solar’), as per an announcement from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) last Thursday. This represents a step in the right direction in terms of replacing ‘dirty’ and expensive diesel generators with (for the most part) clean, portable energy solutions in rural and fringe-of-grid areas. These portable solar generators will be manufactured by a company called SunSHIFT, which has been established by Laing O’Rourke.

SunSHIFT Portable Solar by Laing O’Rourke

The money has been invested in a new technology which combines a PV system with battery storage. The system is also complemented by a diesel/gas generator as a backup energy source. The SunSHIFT portable solar machines will be modular 1MW blocks which could be used, initially, in tandem with conventional energy generation. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted in the AFR that this mobile solar tech could be particularly useful for short-medium term projects, where the relatively long payback period of solar energy would not be feasible.

“Projects that only last a handful of years, like construction and mining operations, could benefit from SunSHIFT without having to rely on the typical 20-plus year payback period for solar installations,” Frischknecht said.

The SunSHIFT blocks have also been lauded by Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg who was quoted as saying “This innovation means several locations can benefit from a single plant, without any one site needing to commit to a permanent installation.”

Portable Solar SunSHIFT Blocks
Mobile Solar – SunSHIFT Blocks (source: sunshift.com)

SunSHIFT Technical Specifications and more information.

  • Each 1MW block will contain 2400 (435kw) solar panels.
  • Each panels/inverter/transformer/storage unit will occupy ~1.25ha
  • Designed to fit in shipping containers.
  • Cost less than providing diesel power to regional sites (the transportation of diesel fuel can run up to 30% of cost of energy)
  • Targeted at mining companies.
  • Buy-out option available.
  • Click here to read a fact sheet from SunSHIFT about their product.

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