Many international research shows that solar parks can compensate for the carbon footprint associated with their establishment – the manufacturing of the mounting structure and the solar panels, the installation of the system, as well as the construction of the service facilities – within the first 2-4 years of their operation. The lifespan of solar panels and solar parks is approximately 30 years, which means that a solar park provides carbon-neutral energy to consumers in 85-90 percent of its operation time.
Lifespan: this is how long a solar panel operates
Global industry experience shows that high quality solar panels have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years. The long operating life is partly due to the fact that the simple equipment without moving parts consist of three fairly durable elements: solar cells predominantly made-up of silicon, a glass cover surface, metal wires and mounting structure.
“Today, both thermal and mechanical recycling methods are characterized by about 90 percent efficiency. This means that at least 18 kg of material is recovered by recycling companies from a 20 kg solar module, which can be used again for the production of new solar panels”, explains Gábor Farkas, Managing Director of SolServices Ltd.
Furthermore, the efficiency of a solar module deteriorates less and less over its lifetime as technology advances. Nowadays, solar panel manufacturers offer a 90 percent performance guarantee for their products after 10 years of operation, and 80 percent after 20-25 years. And that is just the pessimistic manufacturer’s warranty.
Recycling, but how?
The experience with recycling is clearly positive, and it is expected to be further improved by the demand for efficient recycling methods, which is also anticipated to increase along with the recycling of equipment in existing solar parks. So much that there have been signs indicating that a new industrial sector – or a new business line of solar energy producers – could emerge, which is an undoubtedly positive trend.
Moreover, the recycling of equipment is guaranteed by legal regulations: the EU adopted a directive on the management of waste from electronic equipment in 2012, and solar modules belong to this category. This means that solar panel manufacturers must comply with specific requirements for recycling standards in order to ensure that the equipment does not become harmful to the environment after the end of its lifetime.