Today’s Solutions: August 11, 2022

Though the global surge in solar power is good news for our green energy transition, it also means that in the coming years we will face an enormous amount of e-waste. In fact, it’s estimated that the first wave of solar panels will generate as much as 8 million metric tons of e-waste by 2030. 

This is because most manufacturers of solar panels don’t account for what happens to the technology when it wears out — meaning that most of it skips recycling facilities and goes straight to landfill. That, however, is not the case for First Solar, a manufacturer that has integrated circularity within the design of its solar panels.

Equipped with custom e-waste processing technology, the company disassembles and recycles old panels at a recycling plant in Ohio, recovering 90 percent of the materials inside.

“Our aim for solar is to help our customers decouple their economic growth from negative environmental impacts,” says Andreas Wade, who leads the company’s global sustainability efforts. “So it is kind of a mandatory point for us to address the renewable-energy-circular-economy nexus today and not 20 years from now.”

As Wade explains, by recycling materials, the total environmental footprint of each panel shrinks significantly. In fact, if 95 percent of the valuable semiconductor material can be recovered and put back in a panel, in repeated cycles, the original material could stay in use as long as 1,200 years.

While such sustainability efforts are currently not common practice for other solar panel manufacturers, Wade is optimistic that as the industry progresses, recycling options are also likely to get a boost — paving the way for a truly circular economy for renewable energy.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

VR tech helps international team of surgeons separate twins with fused brains

In miraculous medical news, virtual reality (VR) has helped surgeons successfully separate conjoined twins with craniopagus. Craniopagus describes a condition where twins are born with fused brains. It is an incredibly rare condition, and—this probably ... Read More

Could “antivitamins” be the cure to antibiotic resistance?

The first naturally-occurring bacteria killer, penicillin, was discovered nearly a century ago and with it came the advent of a new class of medicines: antibiotics. Bacterial infections were the leading cause of death at the ... Read More

Rare yellow penguin is mystifying biologists

In December 2019, Belgian wildlife photographer Yves Adams had an exceptional stroke of luck while on a remote island in South Georgia. Adams was leading a two-month photography expedition through the South Atlantic and had ... Read More

This radio station plays ethereal ambient music made by trees

Silent tree activity, like photosynthesis and the absorption and evaporation of water, produces a small voltage in the leaves. In a bid to encourage people to think more carefully about their local tree canopy, sound ... Read More