Together with its Swiss partner - KWB Planreal AG - Reiling PV-Recycling is involved in the Swiss PV Circle project. The project around the initiators SENS eRecycling, Swissolar and the Bern University of Applied Sciences as well as other partners from the solar and energy industry intends to determine the optimal recycling strategy for photovoltaic modules at the end of their first life cycle based on data. Photovoltaic modules that are still efficient are to be put back on the market as second-hand modules.
In 2022, more new photovoltaic systems were installed in Switzerland than ever before. Compared to the previous year, the number of new installations rose by almost 60%. What the installers are achieving at the moment will be felt by the recycling industry in around 20 to 25 years: then photovoltaic modules will have reached the end of their life cycle. What many do not know: About half of these discarded photovoltaic modules would have enough power to be reused as second-hand modules. This is shown by findings of the Bern University of Applied Sciences from the EU Horizon project CIRCUSOL. After all, photovoltaic modules lose only about 0.5% of their power per year and thus still have 90% of their original power after 20 years. The reasons why photovoltaic modules are nevertheless taken out of service are manifold. In addition to weather-related damage such as hail, technological progress certainly also plays a role: new photovoltaic modules often perform significantly better than those installed on roofs and façades 20 years ago.
The project develops business models with the aim of establishing the reuse of photovoltaic modules in the Swiss solar industry and thus strengthening the circular economy in the Swiss solar industry. By extending the service life of the modules, resources are to be conserved. To this end, a platform is being developed that enables the early determination of the appropriate recycling strategy through comprehensive data management. This data-based assessment is to be supported by a standardised test procedure that determines the reuse potential of photovoltaic modules. This means that tested second-hand modules can be put on the market at a lower price and only those modules that are no longer functional can be recycled.
More information can be found at the official project webseite.