One less argument against the necessary proliferation of solar facilities!
This is a really interesting topic. The issue of sustainably recycling solar panels has been on my mind for a while. The article talks about silicon, aluminum etc, I wonder what is being done to recover and reuse the rare earth elements in the panels. I also am intrigued to see what the “energy equation” is re total energy captured by a panel vs energy needed to manufacture and ultimately recycle it.
@geoff - Hi Geoff, I haven't seen anything specific to rare-earth metals recovery in the solar panel sector, but certainly its a focus in the e-waste industry. I suspect the first challenge of efficient and scalable disassembly (eg. getting the thin-film off) is the first step, then the extraction of some of the critical metals that might be used, depending on the manufacturing process, such as cadmium or silver. Re energy equation - absolutely, there is quite a lot of focus on this, again the principle being cradle to grave life-cycle analysis. What that doesn't do however, is take into account the externalities of the "land-fill" option. In other words, the energy equation for recovery is typically always going to be higher than the energy consumed to dump it!