It is no secret solar energy is becoming more popular. In 2021, the United States saw record-breaking growth for solar installations for a fifth year in a row1, and the momentum is not slowing down. With an uptake in solar installations, more equipment has been produced at a faster rate and it leads many to two key questions about the future:
What is a Solar Panel Expected Lifetime and What Happens once They Stop Working?
Solar panel systems are estimated to last more than 30 years, bringing amazing impacts financially and environmentally. In those 30+ years, each system produces enough energy to avoid releasing almost 170 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from nonrenewable resources and saves homeowners thousands of dollars. These benefits are great short-term, but what about after those years are up?
Well, with proper maintenance, you may not even notice a difference in your panels’ performance at 30+ years. Tier-1 panels will likely still be producing about 93% of the energy they produced when they were brand new, with a degradation rate of .3% per year2. However, if you track your system’s production over time and notice your production decreasing and energy bills increasing, it may be time to consider replacing them.
Solar scientists did not have an answer for a couple of decades. Solar panels ended up in landfills, halting their positive impact. However, there is a large amount of research going into how this can change. While millions of homeowners are switching to solar energy today, scientists are preparing for 25 years from now and are projecting the value of recycled panel parts will increase by over 15 times by 20303.
How Are Solar Panels Recycled?
The rooftop solar panels Blue Raven Solar recommends are monocrystalline silicon panels which are most used in residential solar installations. These panels are made with several recyclable materials, like aluminum, glass, copper wire, and plastic. In fact, glass makes up about 75% of the weight of each panel. The disassembly of panels can be difficult because of the polymer layers sealing the panels to protect them from weather exposure.4
There may be metals like lead and cadmium in solar panels, and silicon is difficult to recycle as well. So, there has been some creative problem solving to make the recycling process more efficient and possible.
There are different methods to recycling solar panels, and most include these three steps:
- Removing the junction box and frame
- Separating the glass and silicon (this can be done through thermal, mechanical, or chemical processes)
- Separating and purifying silicon cells and metals through chemical and electrical processes
With these three steps, recycling researchers can recover most of the solar panel, creating the least amount of waste. Unfortunately, it is not happening on a large scale yet, but solar recycling is a growing practice with massive potential.
To make the process more intuitive and efficient, the recycling process is going to continuing undergoing changes to become more detailed and sophisticated, and solar scientists will likely be making large strides in their technology and in the ability to efficiently recycle solar panels.
Blue Raven Solar’s Commitment to Efficiency and Better Technology
Blue Raven Solar is dedicated to working with the best quality products and delivering the best services. Using the most current and highest-quality solar panels, we are looking forward to new innovations for solar recycling. Additionally, we can’t wait to uncover new ways solar energy can contribute to bettering the planet and homeowners who make the switch.
Solar energy is on its way to becoming more efficient than ever before, making it an even better option for homeowners across the country. Blue Raven Solar has helped thousands of homeowners become energy independent, and we are excited for the growth of the solar industry through more efficient options.
Go solar with Blue Raven Solar today!