Australian state offers $1.6 million for solar recycling scheme

The government of the Australian state of Queensland says it has committed AUD 2.5 million ($1.6 million) to progress the development of an “Australian first” solar-panel recycling scheme, in preparation for “thousands” of PV modules installed on rooftops and in large-scale solar farms that are approaching end of life.

From pv magazine Australia

The Smart Energy Council (SEC) has secured funding from the Queensland government to develop an industry-led solar panel recycling pilot program in the state, ensuring that broken or end-of-life solar panels are repurposed, rather than sent to landfill.

In 2019, solar panels accounted for 1,000 metric tons of waste in Queensland. Modeling suggests that by 2030, PV and battery storage waste in the state will exceed 17,000 metric tons per annum. Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have predicted that the national solar waste total could reach 100,000 metric tons per year, equivalent to 1.2 GW per annum, by the end of this decade.

SEC Chief Executive Officer John Grimes said a solar panel recycling industry in Queensland would take thousands of panels from rooftops, businesses and solar farms and close the loop.

“Queensland has some of the highest rooftop solar penetration in the country – it’s critical we explore how solar panels are dealt with as they reach the end of their life,” he said, adding that Queensland “is the only state in Australia to have a plan for the recycling and stewardship of residential, commercial, and large-scale solar panels. The large-scale solar industry knows it must have a strong product stewardship scheme if it is to maintain a strong social license to operate.”

Grimes said the next stage of the program will tackle the challenges identified in the initial stage of the program, which was first announced in 2023.

The program will investigate the collection and disposal of unwanted solar panels from residential, commercial, and large-scale sites and will also provide information on reprocessing and recovery costs. It is also hoped that it will drive momentum and behaviour change in the industry.

“In short, we’re working to ensure residential solar panels can avoid landfill and are repurposed for parts, whilst helping inform the development of a national product stewardship scheme,” said Grimes.

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