Is silicon recyclable

Sustainable production and recycling of solar modules

The photovoltaic industry can enjoy a green image thanks to the environmentally friendly energy generation of solar systems. How “green” the solar industry is when it comes to the production and recycling of solar components is often discussed.

The materials used to produce solar modules, for example, and what is meant by sustainable disposal play a central role.

production

The quality of solar modules is measured by what is known as the energy payback time. This is understood to be the period of time that a module needs to generate the energy used for production without emissions. The more (non-renewable) energy used to produce the module, the greater the energy payback time.

On average, a solar system generates around 10 times more energy than was used to manufacture it during its lifespan of around 20 to 30 years. So nowadays solar systems already achieve a positive energy balance after 2.5 to a maximum of 6 years. Increasing the efficiency of solar modules will be an important factor in the future in order to further optimize the energy balance of solar systems.

Solarmotion gmbh also pays attention to the energy balance when selecting solar modules and only uses those with correspondingly good values.

recycling

Around 95% of the entire solar module is recyclable. The material components - mainly glass, aluminum, plastics and semiconductor materials - can be recovered by separation.

The aluminum frame, the cables and the electronics of the solar modules are separated directly from the rest of the module and thus recycled individually. The separation of the semiconductor material from the remaining materials of the solar cell is more complicated. The semiconductor (often silicon) can be separated from plastic and glass by chemical processes. Ultimately, this is pressed and can be reused for a new solar cell.

A large part of the solar module is recycled through these processes. At the same time, the production of a solar module from recycled materials costs 70% less energy than the production of a completely new module. In order to be able to use these advantages even better, research into recycling processes for the components of your solar system is ongoing.

The industry association PV-Cycle has been campaigning for the free return and sustainable disposal of solar modules since 2010. You can find your nearest collection point in Switzerland through its partner, SENS eRecycling.