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Solar recycling

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2009
Anne L. Fischer, Senior Editor,

Photovoltaic panels have a lifetime of approximately 30 years, so panels installed during the first solar boom of the 1970s are already candidates for recycling. Based on knowledge gained from the electronics, telecommunications and battery industries, recycling processes are well defined. Large companies have collection, or “take back,” policies, and other companies collect and process the recyclables so that they become used parts or materials rather than waste. First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., recycles all components for use in new modules or other products. To participate in the program, anyone with a First Solar PV module can submit a request for collection, found on the company’s Web site. The company offers instructions on how to disassemble the modules and provides the necessary packaging. It also pays for transportation and recycling. Funding for the recycling program is set aside from the sale of each module to prevent their ending up in a scrap pile.

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