Are we wasting time by not thinking about solar waste?
A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicates that by the end of 2040, India will account for 30% of the world’s installed solar capacity. According to a report prepared jointly by the National Solar Federation of India, SolarPower Europe and PVCycle, supported by the EU in India and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India may generate cumulative photovoltaic waste up to 34,600 metric tonnes by the end of 2030. This figure will increase at least 4 to 5 times over the next decade, given India’s ambitious renewable energy targets. It is now incumbent upon us to distract from writing comprehensive rules to manage PV waste in India.
How do other countries treat solar waste?
The European Union is clearly ahead of other regions in terms of developing and implementing policies for managing photovoltaic waste. The European Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) places the responsibility for waste disposal on manufacturers or distributors who introduce or install such equipment for the first time. According to the WEEE directive, the manufacturers of photovoltaic panels are solely responsible for the collection, handling and treatment of the modules at the end of their life. Currently, most EU Member States have developed guidelines for the collection, treatment and management of photovoltaic waste.
The UK also has an industry-run ‘take back and recycle program’ where all PV producers will be required to register and submit data relating to products used for the residential solar (B2C) and non-residential market. (B2B).
While there are no federal regulations in the United States that speak of recycling, some states have proactively established policies to manage the management of end-of-life PV modules. Washington and California have developed EPR regulations. Washington now requires PV module manufacturers to fund the take-back and reuse or recycling of PV modules sold in or within the state at no cost to the end user. Additionally, New Jersey and North Carolina passed legislation in 2019 to study and explore PV module management options that can help shape future legislation.
In Australia, the federal government recognized the concern and recently announced a grant of AUD 2 million under the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to develop and implement an industry-led product stewardship program for photovoltaic systems. . The program is expected to encourage the sharing of responsibilities throughout the supply chain to manage the impacts of PV modules throughout their lifecycle and will support the development of a domestic PV recycling industry. efficient and innovative.
Countries like Japan and South Korea have already indicated their determination to come up with dedicated legislation to address the problem of photovoltaic waste.
The way forward for PV waste management in India
India needs a three-pronged approach to manage the gigantic amount of PV waste it will generate over the next 10 years.
Politics: While the best time to establish dedicated legislation was almost 5 years ago, the second best time is now. India needs comprehensive and comprehensive legislation for PV waste management, which will also ensure that we explore possibilities for PV recycling / management. Some of the policy suggestions in the NSEFI-SolarPower Europe-PVycle report include creating a separate category for photovoltaic waste in the waste regulations, in addition to banning the landfill of modules while implementing a legislative framework for compulsory extended producer responsibility (EPR). EPR legislation for all PV equipment or all renewable energy equipment in general should be separate from e-waste rules in order to streamline our efforts to effectively manage PV waste.
Industry: The second important aspect is the intervention led by the industry. We have seen in the UK, Australia and especially the EU how industry has been at the center of any legislation or policy. Considering the resilience of the Indian solar industry, it is imperative to have the point of view of the actors of the Indian solar industry by allowing them to propose a sustainable and perennial solution for the generated waste. Another dimension of this industry intervention is the industry led / managed programs aimed at establishing mechanisms for the collection, treatment and recycling of waste from photovoltaic modules which have already been more successful in various industries. ‘other countries. We should also exploit the new and expanded market opportunities generated by MSMEs which can offer services such as PV module management, transportation as well as dismantling and recycling services.
Technology: A parallel effort is needed to ensure that local recycling technologies are encouraged, encouraged and promoted. Government funded research is needed to identify and develop module recycling technologies and its allied infrastructure. Among contemporary technologies, First Solar’s high-value recycling process is highly regarded as it recovers approximately over 90 percent of the semiconductor material for reuse. PV Cycle, the Brussels association for recycling solar panels, has developed a mechanical and thermal treatment process that achieves a recovery rate of 96% for silicon-based photovoltaic panels. India should consider joint collaborations on the research and development front to take advantage of existing technologies and Indianize / indigenize them for the Indian context.
We cannot afford to waste more time by not thinking about solar waste. With our ambitious goals, strong government determination, a resilient industry and a vibrant PV ecosystem, India as a country has a very good opportunity to show the developed and developing world how to effectively manage PV waste.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and are not necessarily the official opinions of the National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI)