2020 has proven again how important solar is to a future of clean, sustainable energy. As more governments, businesses, and homeowners are making the decision to go solar, there is a natural focus on the positive environmental impact. Arch Electric alone had offset 46,373 tons of CO2 by the end of 2020, which is equivalent to planting 54,940 acres of trees. In the face of this amazing effect solar can have for our planet it raises another question, what is the environmental impact of solar when the panels have finished their lifespan and switch off?
When solar panels have served their purpose, it is essential that sustainability-minded companies take care to dispose of them responsibly. Recycling solar panels is a more challenging process than one may think at first glance due to the different types of materials such as glass, silicon, metal, and artificial compounds such as EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and PVB (polyvinyl butyral). In order to recycle the panels, these materials have to be separated in a way that still allows them to be reused for a new purpose. Some of the major parts of the recycling process are:
- Removing the aluminum frame (100% reusable)
- Separating the glass along a conveyor belt (95% reusable)
- Thermal processing at 500 degrees Celsius (This allows for the evaporation of small plastic components and allows the cells to be easier separated)
- Etching away silicon wafers and smelting them into reusable slabs (85% reusable)
Arch Electric is proud to be investing in the future and has partnered with We Recycle Solar to sustainably dispose of old or damaged solar panels. You can learn more about them at http://werecyclesolar.com/about-us/