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Re-Use of Decommissioned PV Modules: Opportunities and Technical Guidelines
A.S.H. van der Heide, L. Tous, K. Wambach, J. Poortmans, J. Clyncke, E. Voroshazi
Qualification and Testing, Sustainability, Decommissioned PV modules
Photovoltaic Modules and BoS Components
Subtopic: Sustainability and Recycling
Event: 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition
Session: 4CO.4.2
670 - 673
ISBN: 3-936338-78-7
Paper DOI: 10.4229/EUPVSEC20212021-4CO.4.2
0,00 EUR
Document(s): paper, presentation


Since huge numbers of PV modules are expected to be discarded over the next decades, it is important to think about end-of-life management for those modules, like recycling and re-use. However, the re-use of decommissioned modules is a quite complex subject since there are concerns from technical, economic and legislative point of view. An evaluation of possible applications for second-hand modules shows that currently, the use of these modules in high-income countries is only interesting to repair PV systems (usually still receiving feed-in tariff) and to replace old modules to extend PV system lifetime. For developing regions in Africa and Asia, second-hand modules are interesting to build new small to medium size PV systems (often off-grid). The typical decommissioned module is a crystalline silicon glass-backsheet module from a utility power plant. Most modules originate from plants that have been partly damaged by severe weather or from repowered plants. Currently, technical requirements to qualify PV modules for re-use are lacking. In the legislation also a clear criterion is needed for a module to be considered as a functional product instead of waste, since it is not an easy yes/no situation like for a typical electronic device. In this paper, it is proposed to set a clear performance threshold at 70% of the original power. Also guidelines for a low-cost quality inspection and cost-effective module repair are given. With this, we aim to open the dialogue on a commonly accepted protocol and criteria. Currently, the worldwide re-use market size is estimated to be around 1 GWp/year, of which 0.3 GWp/year originating from Europe (mainly Germany, with Italy rapidly coming up). Many second-hand modules are shipped to developing countries without recycling facilities which might be a risk for disposal on the longer term. To create a healthy and sustainable market for re-use of modules it will be important that standards for re-use module evaluation become available and that the existing electronic waste legislation will be adapted for energy producing products like PV modules.