A Lancashire firm is aiming to stop end-of-life solar panels going to landfill, launching a service aiming to recycle as much 96% of every unit.
Solar installation is booming in Britain. Over 130,000 PV systems were installed on the nation’s homes last year, the busiest for seven years. But the industry increasingly faces questions over modules’ fate, once their three or four decades of viable operation are over.
Reputable manufacturers warranty panels for at least 20 years, guaranteeing their performance within at least 90% of “factory-fresh’ ratings. But, as installed kit approaches the end of useful output, brands have faced criticism for failing to address the salvaging of re-usable copper, silver, aluminium and silicon.
Now planning what’s believed to be one of Britain’s first depots for module recycling , Blackburn-based waste separators CSG Recovery offer an answer.
Greg Smith, technical manager at the firm’s Stanley Street depot, says many panels are approaching the end of their working life.
“Some have a shelf life of around 25 years, so we are starting to see those originally installed around the year 2000 at the end of their cycle,” he said. “Lots will need replacement, particularly from large solar farms.”
With PV installers busier now they’ve ever been, CSG calculates 13,000 PV panels begin generation in the UK every month.
Worldwide, the International Renewable Energy Agency predicts as much as four million tonnes of discarded panels by 2030. By mid-century, the global total could pass 200 million tonnes.
Blackburn’s CSG believes it can recycle around 96% of each module’s content. Said Smith: “The frame can broken down and reformed into new aluminium, and re-used”.
Long expertise within the CSG group, including handling photographic waste, qualifies the firm to recover valuable silver from a panel’s grid of microconductors. Hardest to recycle is the plastic-based film coating every panel.
Last year, CSG Recovery demonstrated its environmental credentials when its Blackburn facility became a zero waste to landfill site.
With plants in Prescot and Salford, CSG specialises in recovering silver from solutions used in X-rays and dental imaging. The firm sells salvaged ingots back to photographic suppliers for second use.
CSG employs more than 500 people nationally, supporting a network of waste treatment and recovery centres. For more information, visit www.csg.co.uk