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Remanufacturing End-of-Life Silicon Photovoltaics: Feasibility and Viability Analysis
R. Deng, N. Chang, M.M. Lunardi, P. Dias, J.I. Bilbao Bernales, J. Ji, C.M. Chong
Recycling, Remanufacturing, End-of-Life, Second-Life PV, Circular Economy
Photovoltaic Modules and BoS Components
Subtopic: Sustainability and Recycling
Event: 37th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition
Session: 4DO.6.3
919 - 930
ISBN: 3-936338-73-6
Paper DOI: 10.4229/EUPVSEC20202020-4DO.6.3
0,00 EUR
Document(s): paper


With the rapid deployment of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies around the world, the volume of end-of-life (EoL) modules will increase exponentially in the next decade. Different EoL management strategies are being explored both in the industry and in the academic field, such as recycling, remanufacturing, and reusing. We use a Monte Carlo uncertainty model to firstly identify the potential economic benefits of closed-loop recycling of EoL modules when recycled silicon is integrated into different stages of the PV supply chain. Circular use of high-purity silicon and intact silicon wafers from EoL modules shows economic feasibility in reducing the manufacturing cost of second-life modules even when the second-life modules exhibit some efficiency losses. The cost-efficiency trade-off is explored to provide future research targets. We then demonstrate a feasible three-step reprocessing to recover >99.999% (5N) pure intact silicon wafers from EoL cells that have been removed intact from the module laminate. The recovered monocrystalline silicon wafers have a minority carrier lifetime of 20-30 μs. Despite the electrical performance of recovered silicon wafer being below that of standard silicon wafers, the cost of processing is only 25% of the cost of manufacturing a new wafer, which equates to a $0.05/Wp reduction in module production cost when the recovered wafer is manufactured into new modules.