According to Forbes, new innovations in technology are making solar panels more difficult to recycle. As demand increases for solar panels, there is an even greater need for recycling panels that end up damaged or fall short of their warrantied performance.
In an effort to save costs, manufacturers have cut down on using silver to build solar panels, which could end up impacting their recycling rate. And though silver makes up a small portion of the mass of a solar panel, it comprises 47 percent of its value. Scientists believe that the omission of silver in solar panels could drive more and more aging panels to end up in landfills.
Forbes has more details:
Solar panels are becoming less and less recyclable as the need for recycling them looms more and more.
The United States installs 7 million pounds per day of solar panels, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a pace that secures only fourth place among countries for installed capacity. Those panels are built to last 30 years, which foretells a huge demand for recycling decades ahead and an increasing demand sooner, as some panels succumb to damage or fall short of their warrantied performance.
Two months ago you read in this column that innovation is making lithium-ion batteries harder to recycle. Just as lithium-ion manufacturers have learned to cut down on expensive cobalt, solar-panel manufacturers have gotten very good at omitting their most expensive ingredient: silver.