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Biodiversity & Environment

Solar Waste

  • 14 Jan 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Solar Waste and its examples , Related initiatives

For Mains: Management of Solar Waste in India and other parts of the World, Challenges Posed by Solar Waste, Suggestions, Related Initiatives.

Why in News

According to a report by the National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI), India could generate over 34,600 tonnes of cumulative solar waste in India by 2030.

  • India does not have a solar waste management policy, but it does have ambitious solar power installation targets.
  • NSEFI is an umbrella organisation of all solar energy stakeholders of India. Which works in the area of policy advocacy and is a National Platform for addressing all issues connected with solar energy growth in India.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Solar wastes are the electronic waste generated by discarded solar panels. They are sold as scrap in the country.
    • It can increase by at least four-five-fold by the next decade. India should focus its attention on drafting comprehensive rules to deal with solar waste.
  • Report:
    • It is likely that India will be faced with solar waste problems by the end of this decade, and solar waste will end up being the most prevalent form of waste in landfills soon.
      • Solar panels have a life of 20-25 years, so the problem of waste seems distant.
    • While photovoltaics generate only about 3 % of global electricity, they consume 40 % of the world’s tellurium, 15 % of the world’s silver, a substantial chunk of semiconductor-grade quartz and lesser but still significant amounts of indium, zinc, tin and gallium.
    • The market value of raw materials recovered from solar panels could reach USD 450 million by 2030.
    • The value of recoverable materials might surpass USD 15 billion by 2050, which would be enough to power 630 GW with two billion solar panels.
      • Globally, it is expected that End-of-Life (EoL) of solar panels will drive the solar panel recycling business in the next 10-20 years.
  • Other Countries Handling Solar Waste:
    • European Union:
      • The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU (European Union) imposes responsibility for the disposal of waste on the manufacturers or distributors who introduce or install such equipment for the first time.
      • PV (Photovoltaic) manufacturers are solely responsible for the collection, handling and treatment of modules at the end of their lifecycle, according to the WEEE Directive.
    • UK:
      • The UK also has an industry-managed “take-back and recycling scheme”, where all PV producers will need to register and submit data related to products used for the residential solar market (Business-to-Consumer) and non-residential market.
    • USA:
      • While there are no federal statutes or regulations in the US that talk about recycling, there are some states who have proactively defined policies to address end-of-life PV module management.
      • Washington and California have come up with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations. Washington now requires PV module manufacturers to finance the take-back and reuse or recycling of PV modules sold within or into the state at no cost to the end-user.
    • Australia:
      • The federal government In Australia has acknowledged the concern and announced a USD 2 million grant as part of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to develop and implement an industry-led product stewardship scheme for PV systems.
    • Japan and South Korea:
      • Countries such as Japan and South Korea have already indicated their resolve to come up with dedicated legislation to address the PV waste problem.
  • Recommendations:
    • Strong e-waste or Renewable Energy Waste Laws: EPR for the manufacturer and developers to take responsibility for end-of-life the solar panel.
      • PV modules were the first to be included in the EU’s WEEE regulations. It includes options for financing waste management.
    • Infrastructure: To bring down the cost of recycling infrastructure investment is required, coordination between the energy and waste sector to efficiently handle the renewable energy waste and build more recycling plants to avoid solar panels ending up in landfills.
    • Environmental Disposal and Recycling: Environmental disposal and recycling of solar waste could be part of the power purchase agreement SECI / DISCOMS / government signs with project developers.
    • Ban on Landfills: Solar panel waste is harmful to the environment as it contains toxic metals and minerals that may seep in the ground.
    • Business Incentives: New business models, incentives or issues of green certificates to be provided to encourage the recycling industry to participate more.
    • Research and Development: Innovation in design may have an impact on the type of waste they generate; technology advancements will be significant in reducing the impact of renewable energy waste. New panels, for example, use less silicon and produce less waste during the manufacturing process.
  • Related Indian Initiatives:

Source: DTE

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