Colorado — Guidehouse Insights‘ new report analyzes the market for solar panel recycling globally.
The accelerated growth in global solar PV (SPV) adoption has played a significant role in the transformation to sustainable energy.
Still, one potential environmental impact remains largely unaddressed: what to do with SPV panels at the end of their life (EOL).
According to the new report, the global annual solar panel recycling industry revenue is expected to reach $2.71 billion by 2032.
“The lack of an SPV waste-management system could present a serious environmental challenge,” says Pritil Gunjan, principal research analyst with Guidehouse Insights. “Although their design life is estimated at 25-30 years, their actual life is typically 14-15 years, and sometimes less. As the oldest panels approach retirement, the industry must prepare to manage the impending e-waste.”
Though SPV panels provide clean and emission-free energy while operating, their lifecycle—cradle to grave—can contribute to environmental pollution, including mining metals for their manufacture and disposal in landfills after their EOL.
Currently, companies are disposing of panels in landfills as a cheap solution because recycling is expensive and time-consuming, according to the report.
The key market drivers for SPV recycling, as noted by Guidehouse Insights, include the need to manage an anticipated solar waste glut, boosting the SPV industry’s circular economy, the economic benefits of valuable material recovery, and the environmental impacts on landfill disposals.