Japan to implement solar module recycling and recovery measures

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

Recognising that the vast growth in solar deployment under the feed-in tariff (FiT) could lead to an accumulation of PV waste in landfills, Japan will soon begin implementing recycling rules for solar modules.

Solar panels installed since the beginning of the feed-in tariff (FiT) policy was introduced in Japan in 2012 will start approaching the end of their expected lifespan by 2040, with PV panels expected to last around 25 years in the field.

A working group convened by the country’s Environment Ministry calculated that landfills sites could be filled with close to 800,000 tonnes of PV modules by 2040, building up from expected near-future levels of about 3,000 tonnes by 2020 and 30,000 tonnes by 2030. In addition to solar PV panels, the study looked at wind power technologies and solar heating equipment.

The ministry said that, in conjunction with the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (METI) and industry organisations, it will begin to implement measures for “removal, transportation and processing of solar power generation equipment” before the end of this fiscal year, March 2016.

The study group highlighted that the cost of removing PV from landfill could outweigh the economic benefits of the energy resources obtained during the panels’ lifetimes. However, it said, an efficient recycling system could reverse this situation.

Materials used in PV panel production include copper and silver. These can be separated from the glass – which currently comprises around 70% of the weight of a typical PV panel – by smelting. The value of the recovered metals can vary greatly, the group wrote. Of more concern is the lead and selenium content more commonly used in thin-film solar, which are both hazardous materials. The group said that to some extent, domestic manufacturers in particular could be encouraged to find more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes using less lead, for example.

The Environment Ministry’s working group referred to measures being introduced internationally by point of comparison. At present, Japanese firms are required to treat used or damaged panels as industrial waste and are not compelled to account for more than a small amount of the panel’s waste (about 5%).

The EU has introduced the so-called WEEE directive for recycling since 2014, which compels manufacturers to account for their stock. One company, PC Cycle, has been providing recycling and consultation services since 2007 in Europe. It was set up as a voluntary initiative by a group of companies in the solar industry and includes staff from Trina Solar, CSun and developer Conergy among its board of directors. PV Cycle says it has already recycled 12,000 tonnes of PV module waste to date.

PV Cycle this morning told PV Tech that while it only operates its recycling schemes in Europe at present it has consulted with international associations, authorities and researchers on setting up similar schemes elsewhere, including Japan.

“While we do not operate a collection and recycling infrastructure outside of Europe today, we do consult PV companies on their waste matters on an international scale. We have registered an increasing awareness for sustainable waste management in other regions in the world in the last two years,” the company said in a statement this morning.

“With the increasing environmental awareness of customers all around the world, taking an active stake in international lifecycle management can make the difference for PV companies to succeed or not succeed in the long term.”

Elsewhere, the Japanese Environment Ministry working group pointed out, US thin-film manufacturer and utility-scale project developer First Solar has also begun its own recycling and recovery programme.

Energy transparency

Transparency over energy-related environmental issues has become a key issue in Japan following the response to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, which led to radioactive materials leaking into the sea and saw the Japanese public kept waiting to find out news from the tsunami-struck reactor. Many sources in Japan have expressed their anger at the way the crisis was handled.

Additionally, last week, the chair of the executive board of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF), Thomas Kaberger, wrote in a column for the organisation’s website that electric power companies in Japan do not operate with a satisfactory level of transparency. Kaberger wrote that electric power companies, which sell power as utilities as well as being responsible for transmission and distribution (T&D) networks, hold on to all their own data regarding the local grids and energy mixes.

Last year’s dispute over available grid connection for renewable energy projects, therefore, could only be examined using data provided to the government by the power companies themselves.

“By controlling the information they can manipulate decision makers, against the interest of Japan and the customers – in favour only of themselves,” Kaberger wrote.

Kaberger called for the ownership and control of the grid to be separated from the ownership of power plants, to open up competition. Japan is expected to begin a process of deregulation of its electricity markets next year.

Volume 3 of PV Tech Power, the downstream technical journal for the international solar industry, features an in depth look at the recycling of PV waste. Subscription to the journal is free.

22 September 2021
To commemorate the World Energy Storage Day(WESD) on 22 September, being recognized worldwide, Customized Energy Solutions (CES) and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the 5th global conference and virtual expo, which will be held virtually on 22 September 2021. WESD is a global movement initiated by various apex trade bodies working to promote and adopt energy storage, e-mobility & green hydrogen technologies for a sustainable future. The forthcoming edition of WESD is expected to attract global participation with an intent to facilitate bi-lateral trade, market development and new research and innovation, which will invite 100+ countries, 100+ regulators & policy makers, 100+ International speakers,1000+ organisations, 100+ partners & exhibitors and 20,000+ global delegates.
28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

Read Next

September 22, 2021
More than 190 US solar companies have warned that proposed duties on imports of modules and cells from three Southeast Asian countries represent an “immediate and serious threat” to America’s solar sector.
September 22, 2021
Access to off-grid electricity should be seen as a key mechanism to drive rural development and improve economic wellbeing and living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a new report by University College London’s (UCL) Engineering for International Development Centre and off-grid, pay-as-you go solar company BBOXX.
September 22, 2021
A project combining 300MWac of solar with a 150MWac/600MWh battery energy storage facility in New Mexico has advanced after DE Shaw agreed to acquire it.
September 22, 2021
Generac Power Systems has bolstered its presence in the microinverter segment with the launch of a new product line that it says allows homeowners to take advantage of the full potential output of solar arrays.
September 22, 2021
Oil and gas major Shell has launched the Shell Energy brand in Brazil and has committed to investing R$3 billion (US$570 million) in renewables in the country by the end of 2025
September 22, 2021
China has appealed a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that rejected the country’s challenges to the US' safeguard tariffs on certain crystalline silicon PV cells.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
BRISTOL, UK
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021