May 5, 2018

Problems we hadn't started to worry about

Resiliance  - Solar panels generating power don’t last forever. The industry standard life span is about 25 to 30 years, and that means that some of the panels installed at the early end of the current boom aren’t long from being retired. And each passing year, more and more will be pulled from service — glass and metal photovoltaic modules that will soon start adding up to millions, and then tens of millions of metric tons of material.

“It’s not too far off that those are going to be coming off line, and we’re going to have a waste management issue,” says Garvin Heath, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a solar power expert. “It’s fair to say that it’s starting to become more widely recognized as an issue that we’re going to need to start working on pretty soon.”

The solution many are looking to is recycling. But the ability to handle the coming flow of PV modules is not yet sufficient. “There’s some infrastructure,” Heath says. “I wouldn’t say it’s especially well established at this point.”

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