Getting a little ahead of ourselves, are we?
Actually, no. While the solar industry is only just now ramping up in earnest — despite there having been solar panels perched on roofs for decades — some in the PV industry are getting a little proactive about handling the waste that a massive U.S. roll-out of the renewable energy technology will produce in the coming years.
SmartPlanet spotlights a fascinating piece written by Erica Gies about the not-so-green side of cleantech. Like many modern electronics, it takes some pretty nasty materials to harness electricity from the sun’s rays. One third-party recycling company, PV Recycling, is out to make certain that solar manufacturers don’t repeat the mistakes of a consumer electronics industry that pumped out millions of devices packed with toxic materials but with no plan to handle all that e-waste.
Jennifer Woolwich, PV Recycling’s founder, is currently warehousing broken PV panels in a Phoenix warehouse and sees an opportunity to “harvest 500 panels a week” as solar capacity grows in the U.S. However, she reveals one roadblock that recyclers may encounter. PV manufacturers may be wary of contracting with a third-party, for fear that it will use its access to broken panels and waste materials to unlock the secret sauce behind their IP. So, for the time being, some solar companies are handing recycling in-house.
Gies’ article is a fascinating study in the complexities of creating sustainable product lifecycles (thin film solar adds its own wrinkles) and is well worth the read.
Image credit: Pink Dispatcher – Flickr – CC