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PV modules outlook: sun pierces the clouds

An Italian task force has seized 60 tonnes of waste solar panels at a recycling plant in Sicily, claiming the units were to be smuggled to Africa and the Middle East.

The Ministry of the Environment says that thousands of panels sent for recycling from solar plants in Italy have been re-badged with false labels and exported to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Turkey and even Syria. This illegal scheme allegedly raked in around EUR 40 million – and came to light during the Carabinieri’s ‘Operation Black Sun’.

The owner of the unnamed recycling plant near Catania has been arrested on charges of cross-border waste trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting.

US recycling push

Another interesting development is that the Washington State House and Senate have passed a bill to update the state’s solar recycling policy. Legislation will inform the final design and adoption of a comprehensive solar recycling programme that is data-driven and considers the lifespan of modules of up to 50 years. An estimated seven million PV modules are installed throughout the US.

Production ramping up again

Meanwhile, PV manufacturing operations in Asia are returning to normal after coming to a halt in February, PV Magazine reports. ‘Capacity utilisation across the supply chain rose to 80% in March, gradually stabilising the supply of modules,’ says PV InfoLink chief analyst Corrine Lin.

The anticipated demand for PV panels in China is not expected to pick up until Q2 at the earliest. ‘For now, Chinese demand is predicted to fall slightly lower than 40 GW this year,’ Lin adds.

Even so, PV InfoLink has not adjusted its expectations for global PV demand in 2020. The Taiwan-based research firm forecasts there will be 134.3 GW of new installations worldwide. ‘Knock-on effects on overseas demand will begin to emerge,’ Lin says. ‘But to what extent the demand level is affected depends on when the [coronavirus] outbreak could be contained.’

Cradle-to-Cradle

Even during such challenging times, the concept of a circular economy is extremely important, says SoliTek. The company is taking the first steps in a cradle-to-cradle (C2C) certification process for its Vilnius manufactured glass-glass panels to be adjudged a ‘totally sustainable product’. SoliTek ceo Julius Sakalauskas expects to achieve C2C status this summer, which will help double sales by 2021. ‘Today, there is maybe only one manufacturer with this certification in the world,’ he says.

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