With the continuous increase in new installed capacity of global photovoltaics in the year, the future of “retirement” modules is becoming an important topic that the global photovoltaic industry must think about.

Beware of “second pollution”

Recently, the energy industry research institute IMEC and EnergyVille jointly released the latest report stating that the photovoltaic modules installed worldwide in the early 21st century are entering the “retirement period” in batches. It is estimated that by 2030, the global photovoltaic module scrap scale will exceed 5 million. Ton.

However, as of now, the world has not yet formed a mature component recycling and reuse market, and the number of participating companies is only more than ten, and professional and technical personnel have yet to be cultivated.

Calculated based on the demand for module replacement in photovoltaic power stations 15 years after operation, the global photovoltaic module replacement scale at this stage corresponds to the newly installed capacity around 2005. At that time, the global newly installed photovoltaic capacity was still in auspicious conditions. Watt level, and the main market is concentrated in Europe. However, after 2011, the annual global PV installed capacity has increased exponentially. In recent years, it has even exceeded 100 GW. The subsequent replacement pressure can be imagined.

The report pointed out that by 2030, the global photovoltaic module scrap scale will exceed 5 million tons. With increasing demand, the recycling and reuse of modules is vital to the development of the photovoltaic industry, and is the key to ensuring that the photovoltaic industry remains green, environmentally friendly and sustainable throughout its life cycle.

It is understood that photovoltaic modules are mainly composed of glass, aluminum, plastic, semiconductor materials, etc., of which more than 90% of the materials can be recycled and reused. However, it should be noted that crystalline silicon components contain fluorine. If professional treatment is not carried out, the toxic gas will not only endanger the staff, but also cause secondary pollution to the surrounding area. At present, the global market share of crystalline silicon components is as high as 95%, which is the absolute mainstream of the market. Therefore, reasonable collection and treatment of waste gas, waste liquid and waste is an effective way to avoid the generation of toxic gases from photovoltaic modules.

Fewer participants in the recycling market

As an emerging industry, the maturity of the photovoltaic module recycling and reuse market is not high at this stage. The report shows that the current global annual recycling scale of photovoltaic modules is between 500-600 MW, but there are only 15 professional companies active in this field.

It is reported that the most well-known organization in the global photovoltaic module recycling field is PV Cycle in Belgium. The organization adopts a membership system. Industry organizations, associations, and companies around the world can apply to become members of PV Cycle. After paying a certain membership fee and processing fees, PV Cycle will assist members in the recycling and subsequent processing of photovoltaic modules. The cost depends on the specific requirements of the policies and regulations of each country and the size of the market. A company with a larger market share will pay more.

However, as the photovoltaic industry in various countries around the world is entering the peak of component replacement, a small number of institutions or companies represented by PV Cycle will not be able to meet the huge market demand, and the industry urgently needs new forces to join.

According to the report, although demand is gradually rising, the market for photovoltaic module recycling and reuse is actually still in the undeveloped stage. Most photovoltaic power plant operators do not have the relevant knowledge and technology at all. This is an important reason why the number of participants remains low. In order to allow more resources to be invested in the component recycling and reuse industry, countries around the world need to establish and improve relevant legal and policy systems to promote enterprises to enter this market.

The use of “second-hand” solar panels needs to be strengthened

The report emphasizes that the development of the module recycling and reuse industry is to promote the formation of a circular economy development model for the entire photovoltaic industry, but recycling and reuse does not mean that the old photovoltaic modules are directly “reconstituted” and “used” modules In fact, it can still be used.

According to reports from IMEC and EnergyVille, under normal circumstances, the life of photovoltaic modules is more than 20 years. In a market with a relatively mature photovoltaic industry, investors have higher requirements for module power. After dismantling old modules, they will choose to install “new products”, but in fact, the eliminated “second-hand” photovoltaic modules still have a certain use value. The low price is sold to the emerging photovoltaic market with lower requirements for module performance.

According to the report, at present, the modules that can be “second-sold” generally come from industrial and commercial photovoltaic power plants. Although these photovoltaic modules have a certain degree of wear after many years of use, they can still generate electricity normally after maintenance. “Secondary utilization” can greatly extend the service life of photovoltaic modules, thereby achieving greater economic benefits.

In addition, the report also emphasizes that whether it is the “second-hand” photovoltaic module repair and resale market, or the scrap photovoltaic module recycling and reuse market, it will increase labor demand and create more jobs. At the same time, under the general trend of global energy transformation, the development of a “second-hand” photovoltaic module sales market will also help low-income countries solve energy supply problems.


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