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Raylyst.cz / Blog / Solar Panel Recycling: How Does it Work?
Published 5. September 2023

Solar Panel Recycling: How Does it Work?

Solar panels represent a significant step towards a clean and renewable energy future. However, as they approach the end of their lifespan, a question arises: What to do with them when they stop working? Fortunately, there are several methods to recycle solar panels and reuse their components.

 

Preparation

Before recycling can begin, panels must be properly removed from their mounting system. All external metal parts such as frames and cable connectors must also be removed from the panels.

 

Mechanical Process

After the removal of external metal parts, solar panels are crushed into small pieces, resulting in a grit. The grit is then mixed with water, forming a muddy mixture.

 

Physical Separation

This muddy mixture is then subjected to physical separation. Methods like Flotation is one of the methods used  to separate silicon and glass from metals such as silver and copper.

 

Pyrolysis

After physical separation, the silicon in the mixture undergoes thermal treatment, known as pyrolysis. The aim is to remove small pieces of plastics and other unwanted materials. During this process, other impurities are also removed from the silicon.

 

Chemical Separation

Metal parts obtained from physical separation, like silver and copper, subsequently undergo a chemical process to be further purified and separated.

 

Reuse and Applications

Once all materials are separated and purified, they can be reused in new solar panels or in other industrial applications. Glass, silicon, copper, and silver are examples of materials that can be reprocessed and reintroduced into the production process.

 

Conclusion

Although most solar panels have a lifespan of between 20 to 30 years, it's important to have recycling plans for when they reach the end of their life cycle. Solar panel recycling not only reduces waste but also allows for the reuse of valuable materials, further supporting the sustainability of renewable energy sources.

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