A University of South Australia researcher is helping establish a lifetime stewardship scheme to manage renewable energy waste from solar panels.
by Sezen Bakan, The Lead, Australia
Australia has the highest proportion of household photovoltaic (PV) systems in the world, with more than 21 percent of homes — or around 2.59 million — now possessing a solar energy system.
It is estimated more than 100,000 tonnes of solar panels will enter Australia’s national waste stream by 2035.
Research Professor in Advanced Materials Peter Majewski is leading research at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute to help establish a lifetime stewardship scheme for Australia’s PV industry, ensuring end-of-life strategies are in place to manage solar waste.
The University of South Australia team is working with researchers from Griffiths University and the University of Technology Sydney, as well as members of the renewable energy industry, in a group led by the Smart Energy Council.
The group’s work is aimed at developing a product stewardship scheme with funding from the Australian Federal Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund’.
“[We are currently researching] how to develop a product stewardship scheme, which is necessary in order to ensure that all stakeholders — manufactures, councils, consumers, recyclers — get guidance on what to do with the panels once they are not wanted, damaged or just very old,” Majewski said.
“So that the manufacturers know what to do and how to design panels that can be recycled, the recyclers know what to do when they recycle, and the consumer knows what will happen with the panels on their rooftop if they want to have new panels, or the panels are damaged through weather events like hail, storms or cyclones.”
The low value of materials currently found in solar panels is an issue when it comes to recycling.
“All in all, it’s not a lot of