As Australia gazes down on a deluge of used solar panels, recycling programs – and even upcycling – are kicking in. In Victoria, a site was found for Australia’s first solar module material recovery and reuse facility, while Reclaim PV expanded its lists of manufacturing partners and collection locations.
This week, Victorian Universities, in partnership with OJAS, announced that their plans to build a facility in Victoria to convert used PV modules into “value-added” materials had progressed. Likewise, Reclaim PV has announced new partnerships and drop-off locations as it prepares to grow significantly in 2022.
Upcycling photovoltaic panels
The University of Melbourne and RMIT University have partnered with Melbourne-based OJAS to develop an “upcycling” facility that will recover valuable materials from photovoltaic modules, including clean glass, silicon cells and polymers.
The project began last year, 2020, after OJAS received a federal government project grant of $ 3 million. CEO Neeraj Das said a site lease in Victoria was secured in June for the facility, and the European separation technology she plans to use to cost-effectively recover glass, silicon cells and the waste polymer from photovoltaic panels will soon be tested and put into service.
The recycling plant, which the team says is the ‘first of its kind’, is expected to be operational by the end of 2023. It will collect the modules via a nationwide network and deliver the recovered materials to downstream companies for an added value. – added products. The ambition is to deploy the solution across Australia.
Currently, project collaborators at the University of Melbourne and RMIT are looking to find “optimal applications” for these recovered photovoltaic components. According to their statement, research to date has shown that fine particles of crushed PV glass can be effectively used to partially replace sand in concrete.
Doctor Massoud Sofi, the project’s research manager at the University of Melbourne, says the app can conserve raw materials used for concrete production and reduce its carbon footprint – which is incredibly high, responsible for 8% of global emissions. The research team is apparently now looking to develop specific applications of PV glass-based concrete materials.
At RMIT, a team led by Doctor Ylias Sabri, is investigating whether the refined materials could be reused in the production of solar panels. They are also studying the processing of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), a material with good radiation transmission and low degradability in sunlight.
South Australian company Reclaim PV Recycling is also preparing to expand its operations which began this year with the launch of its first recycling facility in Adelaide. It recently welcomed three new network partners, RAA, Enerven and Tindo, two new drop-off points and two new recycling centers in Townsville and Bundaberg in preparation.
It plans to collect more than 90,000 panels or the equivalent of 3,000 tonnes of photovoltaic modules in 2022. “These partnerships are an important step in the establishment of Australia’s first national solar panel recovery and recycling network and, most importantly, provide Australians with an easy way to organize responsible recycling of their end-of-life solar panels, ”said Clive Fleming, Director of Reclaim PV Recycling.
Notably, Reclaim’s partnership with Tindo, Australia’s only solar panel maker, creates a full recycling loop for solar panels made in Australia.
Reclaim uses a recycling process known as pyrolysis – a thermal deconstruction technique that breaks down and separates photovoltaic panels into their components by passing them through a high temperature oven. After the thermal extraction process is complete, the recovered components are sorted and placed in collection bins for delivery to the material companies, ensuring that all recoverable materials are available for reuse.
Reclaim’s recycling facility succeeded Lotus Energy’s Victorian plant, Australia’s first, which began operating in May.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the value of materials from recycling and upcycling solar modules will reach approximately US $ 15 billion (AU $ 21 billion) by 2050.
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