Ley Issues Deadline For Dealing With Solar Panel Waste

Solar panel waste deadline

Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has again cranked up pressure on the solar industry to properly address solar panel waste created in Australia.

Solar panels have an expected service life decades if they are of good quality, but not all panels installed in Australia have been. In some cases, solar panels in good working order are also being removed to make way for the latest and greatest in PV technology.

Many discarded panels have been either winding up in landfill1 or are being stockpiled2 for when recycling services are available/operational.

But even good quality panels will need a place to go once their working lives are over and the time is approaching where a bunch of them will be looking for a final resting (recycling) place. One estimate is 1 million panels will be requiring replacement in Australia annually by 2031.

At this point there isn’t much in the way of operational recycling facilities in Australia.

In her address to the National Press Club last week, Minister Ley issued a warning to the solar industry regarding solar panel waste, putting it “on notice” to get cracking on getting collection and recycling sorted. That brief advance notice has now been given a deadline.

In an announcement published Tuesday, Minister Ley has told the industry it requires an industry-led nationwide scheme design finalised by June next year.

Clean Energy Council “Frustrated”

The Clean Energy Council isn’t impressed, stating it has worked to develop a comprehensive, nationwide plan over the past year.

“However, the Federal Government has walked away from this partnership and our attempt to coordinate a national approach to solar panel waste,” it states.

According to the CEC, the Federal Government recently rejected a proposal it put forward to establish an industry-led and self-funded product stewardship program that would meet consumer expectations and government targets by 2030.

But Minister Ley says – and without mentioning the CEC’s proposal specifically:

“Previous submissions from sections of the industry to set up a scheme have lacked a cohesive, coordinated and sustainable approach that looked beyond initial support from the Government.”

In October last year, the CEC’s submission to the Inquiry into Waste Management and Recycling conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources detailed some of its activities and involvement, which included:

  • Integrating Circular Economy into Photovoltaic Product Stewardship Design – Griffith University
  • Product Stewardship options for Solar PV panels – University of South Australia
  • NSW EPA Circular Solar Trials potential – PV Industries, ReSource and MRIe-cycles solutions

… the status of all three projects was noted at the time as ” Commencement subject to funding”.

The CEC also mentioned yesterday there were “sophisticated” Australian and global businesses with solid business plans to establish product recycling facilities across Australia.

“We would welcome a joint approach from the Federal Government and we remain ready, willing and able to work in partnership with them on this significant issue,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

Footnotes

  1. Except for in Victoria, where solar panels cannot go to landfill
  2. Sometimes minus their easily removed and recycled aluminium frames
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. George Kaplan says

    So the CEC is claiming they had an industry plan to recycle panels and the government is saying they weren’t interested in paying for the CEC plan, they want industry to foot the bill? While it’s impossible to know what the truth of the matter is, why should taxpayers foot the bill?

    Something I was reading yesterday said that as of about 2018 roughly 44% of rooftop systems were only 1.5 kW or so. Naturally anyone with a system like that will want to strip it out and replace it with something larger – likely 6.6 kW of panels and a 5 kW inverter. That makes for a lot of panels headed for the dump. And then there’s the likes of a relative of mine. Brand new(ish) entry level system. Thanks to low cost and high FiT he’s saying it’ll have paid for itself in 4 years or so and thus he can replace it. Not that he will, probably, but he could at any time after that. More toxic materials for the local dump?

  2. I would like to see a levy added panels maybe 1c a watt and a recycler can get this back or part of it (to cover old panels) until it is viable to recycle them without it think of the levy on cans. I think I saw a comment on an article (on this website? or another) about the cost being like $15 $20 per panel to recycle currently.

    They can use the barcodes on the back of the panels with any luck economies of scale will then allow recycling panels to become profitable without this and the scheme can them end. (from memory all registered panels have a unique barcode that installers use to make STC’s)

    • Chris Thaler says

      Brill !!!. $0.01 per watt will equate to approx. $2.00 for a 200 watt P.V. assy.
      You are still approx $13.00 / $18.00 short.
      Back to the dwg. board.

  3. Graeme Marshall says

    This is the Environment Minister who blames the Chinese for the World Heritage Council listing the Great Barrier Reef in danger, who knocked back the renewable energy hub in the north of WA after considering it for 3 microseconds, who waved through the carve up of the Pilliga Forest for fracking….I could go on, but it’s depressing beyond words. Clearly ideological decision, Two words – product stewardship. And leave it to the CEC, get out of the way Ms Ley.

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