EU PVSEC Programme Online
EU PVSEC 2021, 6 - 10 September 2021
Presentation: 4CO.4.2 Re-Use of Decommissioned PV Modules: Opportunities and Technical Guidelines
Type: Oral
Date: Wednesday, 8th September 2021
17:00 - 18:30
Author(s): A.S.H. van der Heide, L. Tous, K. Wambach, J. Poortmans, J. Clyncke, E. Voroshazi
Presenter / Speaker: A.S.H. van der Heide, imec, Genk, Belgium
Event: Conference Conference
Session: 4CO.4 Recycling, Repair and Reuse of PV Modules
Topic: 4. 3 Sustainability and Recycling
Keywords: Sustainability, Qualification and Testing, Decommissioned PV modules
Summary / Abstract: Since huge numbers of PV modules are expected to be discarded over the next decades, it is important to think about end-of-life management for those modules, like recycling and re-use. However, the re-use of decommissioned modules is a quite complex subject since there are concerns from technical, economic and legislative point of view. An evaluation of possible applications for second-hand modules shows that currently, the use of these modules in high-income countries is only interesting to repair PV systems (usually still receiving feed-in tariff) and to replace old modules to extend PV system lifetime. For developing regions in Africa and Asia, second-hand modules are interesting to build new small to medium size PV systems (often off-grid). The typical decommissioned module is a crystalline silicon glass-backsheet module from a utility power plant. Most modules originate from plants that have been partly damaged by severe weather or from repowered plants. Currently, technical requirements to qualify PV modules for re-use are lacking. In the legislation also a clear criterion is needed for a module to be considered as a functional product instead of waste, since it is not an easy yes/no situation like for a typical electronic device. In this paper, it is proposed to set a clear performance threshold at 70% of the original power. Also guidelines for a low-cost quality inspection and cost-effective module repair are given. With this, we aim to open the dialogue on a commonly accepted protocol and criteria. Currently, the worldwide re-use market size is estimated to be around 1 GWp/year, of which 0.3 GWp/year originating from Europe (mainly Germany, with Italy rapidly coming up). Many second-hand modules are shipped to developing countries without recycling facilities which might be a risk for disposal on the longer term. To create a healthy and sustainable market for re-use of modules it will be important that standards for re-use module evaluation become available and that the existing electronic waste legislation will be adapted for energy producing products like PV modules.