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The Big Picture on Solar Panel Waste

For this issue of E&I, we looked at Germany’s solar panel waste problem, but Germany isn’t alone. The US and other nations are looking into their versions of the same problem. Here’s how things are looking for the US and other nations:

Icon design ©The Earth & I
Icon design. ©The Earth & I
  • Analysts predict that 59 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) will be installed between 2019 and 2022 in the United States. That amount would double the total capacity of PV that had been installed prior to 2019.

  • The anticipated global PV capacity by 2030 is 1600 GW. By 2050, it’s possible for capacity to build to 4500 GW.

  • Estimated solar PV waste by 2050 for the top five nations: China – 20 megatons, US – 10 Mt, Japan – 7.5 Mt, India – 7.5 Mt, Germany – 4.3 Mt.

  • Solar waste recycling could develop into an entirely new waste management industry as it continues to expand. In terms of the total patents filed for solar recycling technologies from 1995 to 2016, these are the top countries or regions by percentage: China – 48%, South Korea – 16%, Japan – 15%, Europe – 6%, US – 4%.

  • The US is far behind other countries in public sector support for PV recycling.

  • By 2030, PV recycling is estimated to yield 75,000 Mt of aluminum and 90 Mt of silver.

  • Reducing the amount of silver used in new PV technology is a key target. However, doing so would significantly reduce the overall value of recycled modules.


Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Information in this article was derived from the following US Environmental Protection Agency report:


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