Disposal of photovoltaic panels

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The solar panel, in order to be considered an excellent system for the production of clean energy, must be properly disposed of once it has finished its cycle.

Disposal of photovoltaic panels
Arch. Ilenia Pizzico
Arch. Ilenia Pizzico

Solar Panels

pannelli fotovoltaici The installation of photovoltaic panels had a big boom in Italy in the last decade when, thanks to the spread of a stronger environmental education and the presence of government incentives, the roofs of our houses, the roofs of bus shelters, portions of agricultural land, were covered with modules able to produce energy.

The operation of these devices is well known, thanks to the presence of photovoltaic cells, often in silicon, solar energy is absorbed and converted into electricity usable for daily activities; in this way we use the inexhaustible energy of the sun, resulting in savings in the bill.

A variant is given by the solar collector which, through the same principle, is able to heat water for domestic use.

It is therefore of devices whose operation is continuous object of studies aimed to maximizing the production of energy, the accumulation of the same and a higher service life of modules.

From the first panels produced today many innovations have been introduced, both in terms of raw materials used and assembly of that operation.
We see, then, specifically what a photovoltaic panel consists of.

Composition of a photovoltaic panel

cellule fotovoltaiche The classic photovoltaic panel sandwich is as follows: inside two glasses and two films is the heart, the real cell composed of crystalline silicon modules. It is the cell to give the characteristic blue-black color to the panel, to behave like a real generator transforming solar energy into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. To close it all from the outside, tempered glass that acts as insulation and protection, as well as two films of thermoplastic material.

After a process of die casting, the films are transformed into adhesives and the sandwich is closed within a frame that ensures the stability and anchorage to the support structure which will secure the coupling to the cover. Once connected the ends of the cells to a small cabin, we have to orient the panel in the direction of the sun on our territory the optimum orientation is south-west/ south-east at an angle of 30°. In this phase it is necessary to pay close attention to any shadow cones that can be created due to the presence, in the surrounding areas to the area of the installation, of other buildings, trees, or structures that can reduce the production of energy.

Once analyzed the composition of a solar panel is appropriate to say that the life cycle of the same is around 20-25 years, after which the same should be uninstalled and destined to disposal and/ or recycling of some of its components.
So let's see what should be done when we installed the panels that have reached the end of their life cycle.

Disposal and/ or recycling of photovoltaic panels

As we have pointed out before, a photovoltaic panel is composed of several elements including glass, silicon, aluminum and copper; once removed the frame that links the various elements, we can assist to two processes: or shredding and subsequent separation of the various materials, or direct separation through chemical baths.

There are therefore major problems for the disposal of silicon that is treated as in the case of some components of the computer. Particular processes and therefore costs as regards the disposal of other substances will be over the years gradually eliminated thanks to the prohibition of use of harmful materials to man and the environment, such as cadmium telluride that was used previously in photovoltaic cells.

The final regulations regarding the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, known as WEEE, is the D. Decree n. 49 of 14 March 2014 implementing Directive 2012/19/ EU: it stipulates that are considered WEEE photovoltaic panels installed in systems with nominal power less than 10 KW ...; all waste generated by photovoltaic panels installed in power plants rated greater than or equal to 10 KW are considered household WEEE.

installazione fotovoltaica According to the law on waste management responsibilities pertaining manufacturers of photovoltaic panels, which are obliged to treatment for the purpose of recycling their products at end of life.
For panels installed after June 30th 2012, moreover, the Conto Energia IV and V require the person responsible for the submission of a certificate attesting to the accession of the Consortium, to be able to deal with the recovery of the system at the end of life; in Italy there are a lot but you can find the list on the website of the GSE, among them COBAT in Rome, ECOLIGHT in Milan, etc.

In this way not only pay attention to the production of green energy, but also for the proper disposal and/ or recycling of the panel once completed its cycle: in a few years, in fact, when the first photovoltaic panels will be installed on the end-of life or will be obsolete with respect to new technologies, people will know where to turn for proper disposal.

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