Recycling solar and photovoltaic panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline

Solar panel recycling: like any technology, solar panels also have a finite useful life, usually between 20 and 25 years, during which their efficiency progressively decreases. When they reach the end of their operational cycle these panels need to be recycled in an environmentally responsible way with the recovery of raw materials for reuse. An initial round of replacement of solar panel installations made in the 1990s is already underway these years, but it impacts a recycling supply chain that is not yet fully prepared for the increased demand. Stokkermill, a leading recycling technology company, has been studying, designing and implementing technological solutions for the industrial recycling of solar panels and the separation of the materials they contain: tempered glass, EVA film, metals and silicon, for some time now. The materials recovery process takes place through four main stages:

1. Panel preparation: the preparation stage allows the panel's state of integrity and efficiency to be checked and the opportunity for possible reuse for alternative applications to be evaluated.

2. Breakdown: the panels are broken down through a shredding process that allows for the recovery of glass of larger grain size.

3. Shredding: the fractions are further reduced using delaminator mills. At this stage, an additional fraction of tempered glass of smaller particle size and an initial fraction of silicon powder are recovered.

4. Separation: separation of materials is achieved by a combination of specific technologies and devices. These include eddy-current separators, which use electromagnetic fields to repel metals by diverting them from the main flow, and/or densimetric tables that are used to define the separation process based on differences in material densities. Possible sorting with optical recognition devices can also be provided for finishing the process by ensuring that fractions are separated even more efficiently, paving the way for their reuse in the production of new PV panels, and reducing the need for the exploitation of new resources.

In fact, by using Stokkermill's solar panel separation and recycling solution, the end-of-life environmental impact is significantly reduced. Recycling discarded materials not only conserves resources but also reduces the energy and emissions required to produce new materials. Recycling panels thus makes it possible to best meet the goals of the circular economy by minimizing, for all intents and purposes, the environmental impact of PV technology. And as the demand for solar energy increases with the use of necessary electronic devices, the importance of responsible end-of-life management of solar panels will become increasingly significant. Stokkermill offers specific solutions for recycling solar and PV panels with capacities starting from about 300 kg/h, which can be extensively customized according to the needs of the end user. The systems are designed to reduce operating costs by requiring little personnel to run and reduced energy consumption. The panel recycling line requires no more than two operators, including one for material handling, and can operate on a 24/24 continuous cycle.

Solar panel and photovoltaic recycling system
Solar panel and photovoltaic recycling system

Versatility: photovoltaic panel recycling lines are extremely flexible systems that also allow materials of different natures to be processed if required. They allow, by way of example, the treatment of scrap and electronic waste WEEE - R4 and, with some implementations, the treatment of electrical cable, electric motors of low weight, coils containing copper, undifferentiated electrical and electronic material, valves and hydraulic materials containing bronze and other undifferentiated metals.