Since 2010, the renewable energy market has grown steadily. This development was mainly promoted by the global desire to achieve certain sustainable development objectives, in particular reducing CO2 emissions. Renewable electricity in particular is booming. It is produced mainly by hydropower, wind power, solid biomass and solar panels. China, for example, holds the world’s largest share of investment in solar energy; it installs photovoltaic solar panels per year 12 times more than in France.
The Longyangxia solar park in China covers around 27 km2, or 13 times the area of Monaco, and produces electricity capable of powering 200,000 homes.
But, a serious question arises around the possibility of recycling this colossal number of photovoltaic solar panels !!
Recycling of photovoltaic solar panels
Most solar panels can be recycled thanks to their composition of glass, silicon and other metals.
The components of a solar panel can be reintroduced in the manufacture of new panels or in other processes in the electronics industry. In addition, photovoltaic panels have a long lifespan (almost 25 years with maximum efficiency) which minimizes their short-term waste.
What materials is a photovoltaic solar panel made of?
The photovoltaic solar panel is generally composed of 75% glass and several cells which are electronic components made of a so-called semiconductor material, most of the time silicon.
The conductors are in copper or silver and the panel frame is aluminum. But, it also includes plastic serving as a support and electrical insulator.
What are the types of photovoltaic panels?
Contrary to popular belief, there are several types of photovoltaic panels. The difference lies in the type of cells that make them up. Here, we cite the three main types:
Monocrystalline cells: they are made from a single block of molten silicon then crystallized, then cut, to give the best performance. These cells offer the best performance and are therefore the most expensive.
Polycrystalline cells: they are made from a block of crystallized silicon. During cooling, several crystals of different senses are formed. They are less efficient than monocrystalline cells but their cost is lower.
Amorphous cells: they are made of a silicon gas, which is sprayed on glass, plastic or metal. Their efficiency is 50 to 60% lower than monocrystalline cells.