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We'll be lucky if our solar panels last 20 years. And then what will we do with them all?  There are a lot of environmental  problems from producing these panels  with all of the mining and energy needed. We just don't see them as much because a lot of them take place in China and other countries rather than where the panels end up being used. The problem seems to be that the materials used in solar panels cost more to take out of the dead ones then you get for them. Has anyone heard of any planning or efforts to dismantle and recycle solar panels that no longer work in Asia? Maybe this is a pipe dream in a country where so many people throw all of their garbage on the street or into the river. But it seems worth asking and thinking about. For more background please see https://www.deseret.com/platform/amp/utah/2021/1/30/22249311/why-green-energy-isnt-so-green-and-poses-harm-to-the-environment-hazardous-waste-utah-china-solar

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7 minutes ago, Jlop said:

We'll be lucky if our solar panels last 20 years. And then what will we do with them all?  There are a lot of environmental  problems from producing these panels  with all of the mining and energy needed. We just don't see them as much because a lot of them take place in China and other countries rather than where the panels end up being used. The problem seems to be that the materials used in solar panels cost more to take out of the dead ones then you get for them. Has anyone heard of any planning or efforts to dismantle and recycle solar panels that no longer work in Asia? Maybe this is a pipe dream in a country where so many people throw all of their garbage on the street or into the river. But it seems worth asking and thinking about. For more background please see https://www.deseret.com/platform/amp/utah/2021/1/30/22249311/why-green-energy-isnt-so-green-and-poses-harm-to-the-environment-hazardous-waste-utah-china-solar

That's a good question you are asking. Basically the answer is they are virtually 100% recyclable. However there needs to be an infrastructure of sorts to do this. In more solar savvy countries I believe this already exists. In Thailand that may not yet be the case. I'm sure there is a business opportunity here somewhere but it will probably be a few years before such a business will have a lot to do.

https://forevergreen-energy.co.uk/can-solar-panels-be-recycled/#:~:text=The short answer is yes,into landfill in the UK.

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6 minutes ago, Muhendis said:

That's a good question you are asking. Basically the answer is they are virtually 100% recyclable. However there needs to be an infrastructure of sorts to do this. In more solar savvy countries I believe this already exists. In Thailand that may not yet be the case. I'm sure there is a business opportunity here somewhere but it will probably be a few years before such a business will have a lot to do.

https://forevergreen-energy.co.uk/can-solar-panels-be-recycled/#:~:text=The short answer is yes,into landfill in the UK.

The key seems to be getting the companies to agree to take them back or forcing them to take them back. And then they have to recycle the materials. But we are a long way from that in a lot of countries including Thailand.

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I hope you're right, because  I'm not sure I can install a solar system  when I don't know about the full  life cycle of the product. The history of broken promises made around recycling plastic, e-waste, etc. makes me wonder if this will all come true. And how much confidence can we have in promises from this government? The solar energy industry is as good as any other before it at promoting the benefits of their products and not mentioning the downsides. What's EGAT by the way?

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16 hours ago, BritManToo said:

Knock the aluminium off them and use as roofing sheets.

Garden shed, dog house, etc.

 

Chuck them out by the bin. They will soon disappear into the local recycling system?

 

6 minutes ago, Jlop said:

I'm not sure I can install a solar system  when I don't know about the full  life cycle of the product.

 

Is an electric car on your horizon? Or a new TV? or... 

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2 hours ago, BritManToo said:

This sounds to me more like a mental illness.

Do you obsess this much about a plastic water/drinks bottle purchased in 7-11 before you buy it?

No fridge, no air-con, no car, no bicycle, no computer, no tv?

 

19 hours ago, Muhendis said:

That's a good question you are asking. Basically the answer is they are virtually 100% recyclable. However there needs to be an infrastructure of sorts to do this. In more solar savvy countries I believe this already exists. In Thailand that may not yet be the case. I'm sure there is a business opportunity here somewhere but it will probably be a few years before such a business will have a lot to do.

https://forevergreen-energy.co.uk/can-solar-panels-be-recycled/#:~:text=The short answer is yes,into landfill in the UK.

 

2 hours ago, BritManToo said:

This sounds to me more like a mental illness.

Do you obsess this much about a plastic water/drinks bottle purchased in 7-11 before you buy it?

No fridge, no air-con, no car, no bicycle, no computer, no tv?

You can call it a mental illness, because that's what you're familiar with. I call it a conscience.

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4 hours ago, Jlop said:

And how much confidence can we have in promises from this government?

Or any Government for that matter.  I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned plastic recycling...  We should have stopped and glass cola bottles and aluminium beer cans. 

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23 minutes ago, Crossy said:

 

The late '70s UK "Get it in glass" campaign had a point.

 

I used to go out collecting the "empties" when I was a nipper. each one got me tuppence round at the off licence.

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5 minutes ago, Muhendis said:

I used to go out collecting the "empties" when I was a nipper. each one got me tuppence round at the off licence.

 

One assumes you would never dream of pinching empties from the back of the "offie" and getting the deposit back again, and again, and again ... :whistling:

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Just now, Crossy said:

 

One assumes you would never dream of pinching empties from the back of the "offie" and getting the deposit back again, and again, and again ... :whistling:

Been there, done that, and got a damn good slap when i got caught.😜😜😜

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1 minute ago, colinneil said:

Been there, done that, and got a damn good slap when i got caught.😜😜😜

 

It's a times like this that a naive baby sister is a handy thing to have :whistling:

 

Of course if I mention it, even now, she gives me a solid clip around the lug-hole. This is a woman who doesn't run marathons because "they are not far enough", definitely not to be trifled with!

 

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3 hours ago, Crossy said:

 

One assumes you would never dream of pinching empties from the back of the "offie" and getting the deposit back again, and again, and again ... :whistling:

Who!  Me?  :whistling:

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The amount of toxic waste in a solar panel is relatively small, probably similar to all other electrical/electronic waste. Batteries more of a concern i think.

 You also need to be sceptical of some claims - i visited a link a few months ago which claimed that solar panels are full of toxic waste - it gave a whole string of elements including cadmium and a few others which i am pretty sure are not used in solar panels. So i chased up where this article was from - wasn't surprised that it came from a site that slagged off renewable energy sources, said that coal was clean with new technologies and that global warming was fake news.

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On 2/23/2021 at 2:09 PM, rickudon said:

The amount of toxic waste in a solar panel is relatively small, probably similar to all other electrical/electronic waste. Batteries more of a concern i think.

 You also need to be sceptical of some claims - i visited a link a few months ago which claimed that solar panels are full of toxic waste - it gave a whole string of elements including cadmium and a few others which i am pretty sure are not used in solar panels. So i chased up where this article was from - wasn't surprised that it came from a site that slagged off renewable energy sources, said that coal was clean with new technologies and that global warming was fake news.

Some of the concerns about the manufacturing of panels are listed in the article that I posted to start this topic. 

 
  image.png.d1145ee71cb46c142f7d2651242aa223.pngSUBSCRIBE
 
ENVIRONMENT

Solar Panel Waste: The Dark Side of Clean Energy

Tons of solar panels installed in the early 2000s are reaching the end of their lifecycles, posing a serious problem for the industry to contend with. Current solar panel disposal practices are far from being environmentally friendly.

By Conor PrendergastDecember 15, 2020 1:28 AM
 
 
 
 
 
solar panel green energy on a home roof with flowers - shutterstock
(Credit: anweber/Shutterstock)

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On paper, solar energy seems more promising than ever. Solar cells are becoming easier to produce, along with becoming increasingly compact and portable. But there are a few problems with solar energy that’s seldom talked about. Questions remain about whether their production and waste creates more pollutants than the fossil fuels they aim to replace.

Manufacturing solar panels often requires the use of several noxious chemicals. To add to that, solar panels have an operating lifespan of around 20 to 30 years. Since they were first introduced in the 2000s, literal tons of solar panels are reaching the end of their lifespan. Because it's not easy to properly dispose of the toxic metals inside the solar cells — and there's an overall lack of oversight — it is often cheaper to discard them in landfills or send them to developing countries. As solar panels sit in dumps, the toxic metals they contain can leech out into the environment and possibly pose a public health hazard if they get into the groundwater supply.

What’s in a Solar Panel? 

A solar panel is essentially made up of several sheets of silicon crystals called cells. Each cell making up a solar panel is sandwiched by an aluminum and glass layer. Together, they form the energy-producing components that convert sunlight into electricity.

 

The cells require very pure silicon to work properly. When silicon atoms are hit with sunlight, an electron gets ejected and creates a spark that’s similar to what happens when you microwave metal. These electrons are carried through the cell via traces of metal impurities added to the silicon, and copper wires carry it away as electrical currents.

Very pure silicon must be used because the crystal structure it forms is most conducive to letting electrons flow. Production commonly includes nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride, some of the most harmful greenhouse gases around.

Normally silicon is recyclable, but to improve the solar cells’ electrical efficiency, metals such as cadmium and lead are added. This makes solar cells difficult to recycle, since it will take considerable energy to extract hazardous metals. In fact, it often costs companies more to recycle a solar panel than to produce a solar panel.

 

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Did some more research and yes, Cadmium can be used - but only 2% of world production in 2008. Can find no references to Lead other than a bit of solder. The other metals are not particularly toxic. Some nasty chemicals are used to make pure silicon, but not left in the product. So, as i said, not really any more of a waste disposal issue than other electrical/electronic waste. 

 

But i am all for 100% recycling of waste. Landfill is just an economic decision. Tax waste massively and recycling will boom. This applies to all waste products.

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On 2/28/2021 at 4:33 PM, Jlop said:

On paper, solar energy seems more promising than ever. Solar cells are becoming easier to produce, along with becoming increasingly compact and portable. But there are a few problems with solar energy that’s seldom talked about. Questions remain about whether their production and waste creates more pollutants than the fossil fuels they aim to replace.

Manufacturing solar panels often requires the use of several noxious chemicals. To add to that, solar panels have an operating lifespan of around 20 to 30 years. Since they were first introduced in the 2000s, literal tons of solar panels are reaching the end of their lifespan. Because it's not easy to properly dispose of the toxic metals inside the solar cells — and there's an overall lack of oversight — it is often cheaper to discard them in landfills or send them to developing countries. As solar panels sit in dumps, the toxic metals they contain can leech out into the environment and possibly pose a public health hazard if they get into the groundwater supply.

What’s in a Solar Panel? 

A solar panel is essentially made up of several sheets of silicon crystals called cells. Each cell making up a solar panel is sandwiched by an aluminum and glass layer. Together, they form the energy-producing components that convert sunlight into electricity.

 

The cells require very pure silicon to work properly. When silicon atoms are hit with sunlight, an electron gets ejected and creates a spark that’s similar to what happens when you microwave metal. These electrons are carried through the cell via traces of metal impurities added to the silicon, and copper wires carry it away as electrical currents.

Very pure silicon must be used because the crystal structure it forms is most conducive to letting electrons flow. Production commonly includes nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride, some of the most harmful greenhouse gases around.

Normally silicon is recyclable, but to improve the solar cells’ electrical efficiency, metals such as cadmium and lead are added. This makes solar cells difficult to recycle, since it will take considerable energy to extract hazardous metals. In fact, it often costs companies more to recycle a solar panel than to produce a solar panel.

I've never read such a load of tripe in my life.

"When silicon atoms are hit with sunlight, an electron gets ejected and creates a spark that’s similar to what happens when you microwave metal"...........WHAT?

"Each cell making up a solar panel is sandwiched by an aluminum and glass layer."........ He can't spell aluminium so definitely American and he has absolutely no idea how a solar panel is made. I agree he's an anti-clean-energy nutter. The chemicals he mentioned are used throughout the semiconductor industry in a very controlled way and not just for solar cell manufacture. The devices in our mobile phones, TV's, computers et al are all produced similarly. 

There are some parts of a solar panel which may be difficult to recycle like the thin plastic membrane on the back and the film of adhesive that binds the layers together and the frame to the glass. By the way the electronics industry stopped using lead many years ago.

 

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On 2/21/2021 at 3:46 AM, Jlop said:

The key seems to be getting the companies to agree to take them back or forcing them to take them back. And then they have to recycle the materials. But we are a long way from that in a lot of countries including Thailand.

 

Sounds easy but it isn't, especially for countries like Thailand. 

Who exactly do you "force" to take back the panels?  The Chinese factories manufacturing, the exporter, the importer, the distributor, any local distributors/retailer, the contractor, or the sub that does the actual installation?

Expect any of them to be around in 20-years?

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On 2/22/2021 at 5:57 PM, Crossy said:

 

One assumes you would never dream of pinching empties from the back of the "offie" and getting the deposit back again, and again, and again ... :whistling:

Funny we used to do that with glass coke bottles at our local corner shop in Oz.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/1/2021 at 2:35 PM, rickudon said:

Did some more research and yes, Cadmium can be used - but only 2% of world production in 2008. Can find no references to Lead other than a bit of solder. The other metals are not particularly toxic. Some nasty chemicals are used to make pure silicon, but not left in the product. So, as i said, not really any more of a waste disposal issue than other electrical/electronic waste. 

 

But i am all for 100% recycling of waste. Landfill is just an economic decision. Tax waste massively and recycling will boom. This applies to all waste products.

You learned that 2% of the world's cadmium was used in producing solar panels? That sounds high for one product - so it's concerning. Regarding the other metals that you say are not particularly toxic, one must also consider how those minerals are obtained. Some of them involve really destructive and polluting mining and refining. And thus a lot of pollution is preloaded into solar panels and many other electronic products. If you don't recover those minerals somehow, then more areas will be torn up and more  pollution will result to make the next generation of solar panels.

Edited by Jlop
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On 3/1/2021 at 5:48 PM, Muhendis said:

I've never read such a load of tripe in my life.

"When silicon atoms are hit with sunlight, an electron gets ejected and creates a spark that’s similar to what happens when you microwave metal"...........WHAT?

"Each cell making up a solar panel is sandwiched by an aluminum and glass layer."........ He can't spell aluminium so definitely American and he has absolutely no idea how a solar panel is made. I agree he's an anti-clean-energy nutter. The chemicals he mentioned are used throughout the semiconductor industry in a very controlled way and not just for solar cell manufacture. The devices in our mobile phones, TV's, computers et al are all produced similarly. 

There are some parts of a solar panel which may be difficult to recycle like the thin plastic membrane on the back and the film of adhesive that binds the layers together and the frame to the glass. By the way the electronics industry stopped using lead many years ago.

 

Please don't paint all Americans with the same brush. And your statement that "the electronics Industry stopped using lead many years ago" is ridiculous. Reduced yes, but not eliminated. https://www.electronicdesign.com/industrial-automation/article/21121514/lead-past-present-and-future

 

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OK people, let's stop the bickering.

 

Aluminium/aluminum along with caesium/cesium are the only two elements where two spellings are officially recognised.

 

Yes, the yellow element is officially "sulfur" and has been for many years (1970's from some sources), shame nobody told our UK chemistry teachers 😞

 

 

Anyway pollution/recycling has to be a matter of degree.

 

Our solar panels definitely produced some polution when they were manufactured, and they will likely produce some more when they are end of life (even if recycled).

For the 20+ years in between they will produce zero/no/nada pollution whatsoever by sitting happly on my car port roof.

Additionally in that 20 years each panel (we currently have only 20) will generate about 8,700 kWh of completely pollution free energy and save around 8,500 kg of CO2 being released into the atmosphere (assuming coal generation) and would propel my BEV about 43,000km and save another bunch of emissions being dumped into the city air.

 

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