IRENA End-of-Life Management

End-Of-Life Management for Solar PV Panels


A new report out by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) states that there is a huge market out there for the recycling of solar panels. With more than 23 million solar panels in Australia alone and more than 222GW’s installed globally – the opportunity is significant – ‘multi billion’ big. This is because…most of the materials used to make a solar panel can be recycled and reused at a profit.

While good quality solar panels will have a lifespan of 20 – 30 years, some panels do not! Even so, every panel ever installed will eventually expire and become waste. The International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA-PVPS) believes waste from solar panels could be between 43 500 and 250 000 metric tonnes by the end of 2016 and could even reach 78 million tonnes globally by 2050!

Over 90% of each solar panel (which is made up for aluminium, glass and silicon) can be recycled into more solar panels. “If fully injected back into the economy, the value of the recovered material could exceed USD 15 billion by 2050,” states IRENA. “This potential material influx could produce 2 billion new panels or be sold into global commodity markets, thus increasing the security of future PV supply or other raw material-dependent products.”

Value of Recycling Solar Panels

The idea of recycling a solar panel also means that mistakes, increases in R&D and changes made over time will result in the panel itself coming out with better results than when it was brand new. With technologies advancing the way they are – incredible quality reused solar panels could be made very affordable or could aid developing nations to have access to power they may not have had access to otherwise.

The opportunities are endless. It doesn’t matter which way or in which light you view solar power – the possibilities are endless!


A copy of the “End-of-Life Management” report can be downloaded here.