At the end of a solar facility’s useful life, estimated to be about 30 years on average, panels can be removed and recycled. Recycling programs are being developed that are expected to recover about 90% of the materials used in the panels, much of which is glass. In fact, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that the value of recovered materials could exceed $15 billion by 2050 and that the material recovered could be used to remanufacture two billion solar panels. The solar industry is actively developing new systems and protocols in anticipation of the future retirement of solar panels. These efforts include establishing uniform, cost-effective recycling practices (e.g., identifying vendors and service providers, aggregating end-of-life solar components, and streamlining and improving recycling processes).
What happens to solar panels at the end of their life?
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