The amount of solar panel waste generated in the UK has been predicted to reach more than a million tonnes a year by 2050.
A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme looks at solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment to 2050.
It says the UK is still a relatively young market for PV, and therefore end-of-life panels, but has recently experienced “rapid deployment” with an increase from just under 1GW in 2011 to more than 9GW in 2015. The average lifespan of a panel is estimated at 30 years.
There are now more than 750,000 installations in the country, the report says, with three-quarters of these fitted after the 2014 WEEE Directive.
The legislation requires waste to be treated domestically, in principle, except for cases such as PV where no high-value treatment facilities are available in the UK.
Current volumes of PV waste generated in the UK are small at less than 2,500 tonnes a year. The report says it is likely this will continue to be exported to centralised European treatment facilities or co-processed with other waste electrical streams domestically to start with.
“In the medium and long term, PV panel waste is projected to increase exponentially. Regular-loss and early-loss scenarios estimate cumulative waste at 30,000-200,000 tonnes by 2030. However, this figure could climb to one or 1.2 million tonnes by 2050,” it says.
To deal with this rise, the report suggests technological developments could be created to allow recycling of building-integrated PV along with other construction materials, so long as “pricing dynamics and a strong political focus” are in place.
After consultation between the PV sector and the Government, a separate category dedicated to financing the collection and recycling of PV panels was created as part of the WEEE legislation.
The report says this category will give the PV sector more control over financing PV panel collection and recycling.
Pv panel waste uk