Solar Panel Recycling Initiative

ISTC launched a new initiative in 2017 to lead efforts to prepare the state for a glut of end-of-life solar panels and ensure they are recycled and/or repurposed or disposed of properly. This is needed to prevent toxic compounds from leaching into the environment, as well as to avoid disposal of valuable and finite resources into landfills.

Currently there is no strong recycling infrastructure nor major solar recyclers in Illinois. Thus, ISTC is helping to coordinate consideration of recycling and repurposing issues to determine best steps for Illinois on this waste management issue and establish a recycling network in the state. ISTC is facilitating discussions and meetings with state and federal organizations interested in solar [e.g., Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA), SEIA, and IL EPA] as well as installers, manufacturers, and national recyclers. It is also collaborating on outreach to create awareness of the issues among homeowners and other end-users.

And, because end-of-life solar panels often still can have 80-85 percent efficiency remaining if not damaged, this offers technological innovators, and business entrepreneurs, and other organizations the opportunity to explore materials re-use and re-purposing of the panels. ISTC plans to evaluate current recycling technologies to look for ways to salvage and reuse solar cells. It will also be facilitating partnerships with low-income schools and communities in Illinois for repurposing of used panels.

Solar panel recycling/repurposing also represents the potential for a developing industry/job specialties and training by community colleges and other agencies under the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

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