Improving the end-of-life management of solar panels in Germany

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Fulfilling the SDGs and reaching the climate neutrality target of the EU Green Deal will require a global effort, for which solar energy is indispensable. From 2030 the global number of decommissioned and thus waste solar panels will increase exponentially. This review article specifies the barriers and solutions to creating a closed loop system (CLS) in the crystalline silicon (c-Si) photovoltaics industry in Germany. The conclusions drawn are however relevant for all countries using solar panels, as they will face similar challenges. Specific recommendations are outlined based on identified challenges that will help ensure a CLS for c-Si solar panels. Regarding regulation it is recommended that recycling targets for solar panels should be adjusted so that they are not linked to weight, as this does not encourage the recovery of all materials. It is also crucial that the design of the solar panels is adjusted to ensure that repair, refurbishment and at a later stage recycling are possible. Since the economic feasibility is not given at a small scale it is suggested for companies to join larger recycling schemes. Collaboration and exchange along the supply and value chain is also identified as essential to ensure the development of solutions that will truly enable the creation of a CLS. Product as a service should also be explored by solar panel companies as this would encourage the production of panels that can be easily repaired and later recycled.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112678
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Acceptance, Circular economy, Closing the loop, Design for circularity, End-of-Life, Photovoltaic, Recycling, Silicon solar panel, Sustainability, Systems thinking
  • Chemistry