Solar panel recycling? Yes, it’s an industry — one that could approach $3B in the next decade

Solar panel

The accelerated growth of solar energy sites certainly has played a significant role in the country’s efforts to transition to more forms of sustainable energy.

It also has created a new industry: solar panel recycling.

According to a new report by Guidehouse Insights — a global company with offices throughout the U.S., including New York City and Philadelphia — the global annual revenue from the solar panel recycling industry is expected to reach $2.71 billion by 2032.

Pritil Gunjan, principal research analyst with Guidehouse Insights, said it’s an industry issue that needs to be addressed.

“The lack of an SPV waste-management system could present a serious environmental challenge,” she said. “Although their design life is estimated at 25-30 years, their actual life is typically 14-15 years, and sometimes less. As the oldest panels approach retirement, the industry must prepare to manage the impending e-waste.”

Though SPV panels provide clean and emission-free energy while operating, their lifecycle — cradle to grave — can contribute to environmental pollution, Guidehouse said. This includes mining metals for their manufacture and disposing of them in landfills after their EOL.

Currently, companies are disposing of panels in landfills as a cheap solution, because recycling is expensive and time-consuming, according to the report.

The key market drivers for SPV recycling as noted by Guidehouse Insights include the need to manage an anticipated solar waste glut, boosting the SPV industry’s circular economy, the economic benefits of valuable material recovery and the environmental impacts on landfill disposals.

The report, Solar Panel Recycling Market, provides a market outlook for two SPV recycling technologies: crystalline silicon and thin film. It examines the market’s major drivers and barriers and looks at the industry value chain. Analyses are segmented by technology and five global regions (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East & Africa) for the 10-year period from 2023 through 2032.

An executive summary of the report is available here.