Stop removing your solar panels early please. It's creating a huge waste problem for Australia

Deepika Mathur, Imran Muhammad

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

    Abstract

    As the adoption of solar systems as a source of renewable energy increases, so too does the volume of waste from solar panels removed prematurely. Solar energy systems are increasingly used for decreasing carbon emissions, reducing utility bills and as off grid solutions. However, increasing renewable energy as well as reducing waste in Australia are important targets for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
    Little thought is given at the installation stage to removal reasons (and it is not just technical failure) and waste generated by these removals. We draw on a just-published paper (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221462962100027X) that identifies the social and economic reasons leading to removal of solar panels in their mid-life and shows the need to address this waste stream.
    Some of the reasons for solar panels prematurely turning into waste are:
    •Commodification of solar panel: Like mobile phones and computers, solar panels are being replaced after 10 to 12 years (instead of 25 years) as a result of technology improvements among other reasons
    •Policy failures leading to forced obsolescence: Current renewable energy policies and subsidies (developed in silos) focus on increasing uptake of solar panels and do not address managing the resultant waste once panels are removed.
    •What to do next: Lack of clear guidelines at a national level on collecting, transporting and disposing solar panels impacts upon the ability of local governments in diverting this waste from landfill.
    With a number of massive solar farms proposed in regional Australia, it is more important than ever that priority is given to exploring strategies for managing removed solar panels and place-based policies that provide opportunities for creative solutions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Specialist publicationThe Conversation
    Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021

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