Photovoltaic modules recycling

The photovoltaic industry is still in a ramp up phase. A key stage of the lifecycle of photovoltaic panels is still not managed properly: the end-of-life of the modules. Photovoltaic modules have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. Moreover, a small share of defective panels needs to be replaced every year. Thus, the volume of panels reaching their end-of-life in the coming years will witness an exponential growth following the photovoltaic capacity installations of the past two decades.

Annual waste PV modules expected per year in Europe
Value of recyclable materials in end-of-life PV modules

Currently, end-of-life photovoltaic panels are collected in Europe through a scheme financed by panel manufacturers and importers. In a few countries, pilot recycling lines have been installed but they merely recover the aluminum frame, the junction box containing copper, and potentially the front glass panel. No recycling line is currently able to properly recover the materials encapsulated in the modules. The major technical challenge is to separate properly these materials that each has a high purity and a resale value able to finance the recycling activity.

The technologies developed by ROSI Solar allow to deeply separate the materials laminated in the end-of-life photovoltaic panels. They can recover the ultrapure silicon from the cell but also the silver fingers used to collect the electric current generated by each cell. Moreover, the processes used are based on physical, thermal and soft chemistry mechanisms. They do not use aggressive chemical reaction and the operating cost is reduced. ROSI Solar’s technologies allow to operate economically viable recycling sites for photovoltaic modules in Europe.