MODULE RECYCLING

Frequently Asked Questions

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WHAT'S IN A SOLAR PANEL?

Most components of a solar module can be recycled, including:

  • Aluminum Frames

  • Copper Wires

  • Junction Box, Containing Metals

The remaining materials are called the "laminate" and they contain:

  • Tempered Glass

  • Sillicon Cells Connected with Precious Metals

  • Encapsulant

  • Backsheet

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AL Frame

Tempered Glass

Encapsulant-EVA

Solar Cells

Encapsulant-EVA

Backsheet

Junction Box

Image Credit: Clean Energy Reviews

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WHAT DOES THE RECYCLING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

Several methods for separating components exist, and no one technique has emerged as the dominant process to isolate components from each other.

All processes begin by removing

  • Aluminum Frames

  • Junction Boxes and Wires

Once these components are separated, the laminate remains.  Techniques used for this step include:

Thermal Processing:

The laminate is heated to burn away the backsheet and encapsulants.  This is done in ovens that capture gasses that would harm the atmosphere.

Mechanical Separation:

Components are separated using one of the following machine-based processes:

The cells and backsheet are removed using a thin blade that slices the cells and backsheet from the glass.

The laminate is cut into small squares (roughly 2" by 2") that are crushed and sorted using optical sorting techniques.

Chemical Separation:

Components in the laminate are separated using proprietary processes involving chemicals.

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WHAT END MARKETS EXIST FOR MATERIALS?

End Markets exist for most components in a solar module:

Aluminum:

  • Cans

  • Airplane Components

  • Building Facades

  • Bicycles

Glass:

  • Fiberglass

  • Reflective Beads in Road Stripes

Copper and Other Precious Metals:

  • Electronics

Sillicon:

  • Solar Modules

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