‘About 10% of discarded solar panels are being recycled in the US today,’ reports Kelley Keogh, co-founder of Greeneye Partners. ‘So this is the tip of the iceberg; it could be a whole lot more,’ she tells delegates at the recent E-scrap Conference in New Orleans.
US solar power capacity currently totals an estimated 97.2 gigawatts – enough to power 18 million homes. New market data puts this niche waste stream at eight million tonnes of recoverable material by 2030. With solar energy capacity quickly ramping up, this is projected to grow to as much as 80 million tonnes by 2050.
‘Expanding existing recycling capacity is the only natural and logical choice,’ Keogh declares. ‘The sector is taking steps in this direction. Small steps, though. We need to demonstrate more ambition.’
She is curious to see how US compliance scheme R2 will update its specifications for PV modules in the short term. ‘Ideas are floating around to update the PV appendix by the end of the year. We’re talking about a draft version. A feedback period will follow, which hopefully will allow the most pressing industry recommendations to be adopted.’
Keogh expects the updated PV rules by Q2 of 2023. By then, all US e-scrap players will have completed new accreditation. ‘One thing is clear,’ she underlines. ‘Let’s not make the same mistake we did with cathode ray tube (CRT) glass. If we can all work together, recycling across the entire e-scrap spectrum is possible. We can make it happen.’
According to the Solar Futures Study published by the Department of Energy, solar energy is key to achieving a decarbonised electric grid for the entire country. The report concludes that solar power could potentially account for as much as 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050.
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