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Recycling Technology Not Ready for the Looming Solar Panel Disposal Crisis

Japan is bracing for the massive disposal of solar panels, but current recycling technology is not yet capable of managing the expected volume.

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Solar panels installed on steep slopes in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, July 2018. (©Sankei)

Read the full story on Japan 2 Earth - Recycling Technology Not Ready for the Looming Solar Panel Disposal Crisis

Japan is facing a massive solar panel disposal problem expected for the mid-2030s without the necessary recycling technology to handle it. The government is working to get countermeasures in place ahead of a crisis. Cheap imported panels from China may contain toxic substances such as arsenic, necessitating safe disposal. However, proper disposal may not be carried out if costs are high, leading to increased abandonment and illegal dumping.

End-of-Life for Solar Panels 

The widespread installation of solar panels across the country began in 2012. This year marked the introduction of the government's Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system. It aimed to promote renewable energy by mandating electric companies to purchase all generated electricity, leading to a surge in businesses.

Solar power facility installed on a steep slope after trees cut down, December 20, 2020, Katsunuma district of Yamanashi Prefecture. (©Sankei by Hiroshi Watanabe)

However, the purchase period for facilities over 10 kilowatts is 20 years. By 2032, the purchase period for early market entrants will end. This is expected to lead to a significant drop in the sale price of electricity. The situation is compounded by the lifespan of solar panels – generally 20 to 30 years. As such, a period of large-scale disposal is anticipated in about 10 years.

According to NEDO estimates, the peak of panel disposal will likely occur around 2035-2037. Annual disposal volume is predicted to reach between 170,000 and 280,000 tons.

Continue reading the full story on Japan 2 Earth to learn more about the technological and financial hurdles to recycling end-of-life solar panels.

And find more great articles on the environment and the challenges of achieving the SDGs on our affiliated website Japan 2 Earth (J2E), sparking a transition to a sustainable future.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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