Within the project reprosolar, funded by the eu through eit rawmaterials, companies from both the public and private sectors are pushing the possiblities of complete recycling of photovoltaic modules.
In times of climate change and energy crisis, renewable energies are becoming increasingly important. Photovoltaic technology is no exception: in recent years, the number of photovoltaic modules installed worldwide has increased almost exponentially. While global photovoltaic capacity was still 810 MW1 in 2001, it was already equivalent to around 70 GW in 2011 (1 GW = 1000 MW) and has increased to 942 GW2 by 2021.
Enabling photovoltaic recycling on an industrial scale
With an average lifetime of 25 to 30 years, the first photovoltaic (PV) modules are now reaching the end of their useful life. As the number of installed PV modules increases, so does the number of decommissioned installations. By 2050, 60 million tonnes of old PV modules are expected to be discarded, of which 10 million tonnes are expected within Europe. Thus, the aim of the project ReProSolar is to create an infrastructure that enables the recycling of so-called end-of-life PV modules on an industrial scale.
With this innovative technology, we recover valuable raw materials during PV recycling
In order to recover the valuable raw materials copper, silver, aluminium, silicon, glass and silicone contained in the PV modules without shredding, an innovative process was developed by combining different methods.
In this process, the solar cells are separated from the glass plate by a new delamination technology using high-intensity light flashes. In the second step, innovative chemical-physical processes are used to recover the raw materials in very high purity, which can then be reintegrated into various processing industries as secondary raw materials and used further. In this way, the material cycle is closed.
The project thus contributes to the development of the photovoltaic industry from a linear economy to a circular economy in which waste is avoided and raw materials are preserved in the long term. Therefore, it plays an important role in reducing CO2 emissions and protecting resources.
The project is led by Veolia and driven together with five partner companies. It is receiving EU funding totalling 4.8 million euros through EIT Raw Materials.
EIT RawMaterials, initiated by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), is the world's largest consortium in the raw materials sector and aims to drive Europe's transition to a sustainable economy. To do so, EIT RawMaterials draws on the world's largest network of partners in the field of raw materials and innovative materials.
With the project partners, the entire value chain is taken into account, starting with processing and raw material purification through the waste stream supply chain to reintegration into various industries.
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