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Does solar panels produce any waste: Damage to health

Next we will analyze if Does solar panels produce any waste, if the use of panels or the manufacture is harmful to health. Solar panels also have their dark side 

Assessing the impact of electricity generation on human health and the environment, as well as comparative analysis of various energy sources, is a permanent feature of all meetings and conferences organized by industry associations.

Does solar panels produce any waste

Fossil fuels are the greatest threat to health It is assumed that the production of electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear energy and sometimes also from renewable sources is associated with the emission of pollutants and exposure to ionizing radiation, which can cause health risks. Research shows that the production of electricity from coal, lignite and wood creates the greatest health risks of all electrical technologies considered today. 

Information compiled by HEAL (Health and Environment Alliance, the leading European non-profit organization that analyzes the impact of the environment on the health of European Union citizens) shows that the combustion of solid fuels is the greatest threat to the air quality and, therefore: our health. And the safety for our health when obtaining energy from renewable sources? Can photovoltaics be harmful to health?

Does solar panels produce any waste

Is the photovoltaic installation safe?

The photovoltaic installation is responsible for producing electricity to consume in your home but Does solar panels produce any waste.

A poorly constructed photovoltaic installation is certainly dangerous for people’s health and lives. A photovoltaic panel / module generates a DC voltage higher than 24 V and, in installations consisting of several or several dozen modules, voltages of around 600-800 V and currents of up to 8 A are generated.

This level of voltage and current is dangerous for human life and health, but modern power generators consisting of photovoltaic panels have so-called separation of ground potential, which means that in case of accidentally touching one pole of the voltage of the module (more or less), you will not be electrocuted. However, it is not technical issues – in Poland there are many companies that assemble panels professionally – but the very fact of the impact of the panels on our health that generates greater concern among potential users of photovoltaic energy.

It is worth knowing that the photovoltaic installation:

Does solar panels produce any waste? does not emit pollutants into the air, the operation of the installation is emission-free in the operation stage it is not an excessive noise emitter: modern transformers are very efficient and emit a very low level of acoustic power, and if the noise is too Tiring for users, you can equip the transformer with special noise suppression isolation During the operation of the photovoltaic installation, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation is produced, which does not affect the deterioration of the electromagnetic climate of the natural environment

(NOTE: The admissible values ​​of the physical parameters of electromagnetic fields have been specified in the Regulation of the Ministry of the Environment of October 30, 2003 on the permissible levels of electromagnetic fields in the environment and the methods to verify compliance of these levels For residential areas, the permissible levels of electromagnetic fields for the frequency range generated by the solar power generator are 1 kV / m for the electric field and 60 A / m for the magnetic field). In summary: the operation of a photovoltaic installation is not associated with undesirable phenomena, such as excessive noise emission, the emission of vibrations, electromagnetic radiation harmful to people and animals or the generation of waste. 

Photovoltaic installation and fire risk

Investors relatively rarely consider the risk posed by a photovoltaic installation installed on the roof of a house for the sake of its structure. Experts indicate that the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof can reduce their resistance to fire when the resistance of the photovoltaic modules differs significantly from that of the roof cladding.

Therefore, it is essential that a specialized company install the panels, since it is unlikely that a properly designed and constructed photovoltaic installation could cause a fire. The quality of the panels themselves is equally important: they must be resistant to extreme weather conditions. Experts believe that already in the design stage of the photovoltaic roof installation, the designer must take care of the appropriate distances of the panels to be installed from the edge of the roof to ensure proper maintenance.

Disposal of used panels

An investment in photovoltaic panels is not only an ecological investment, friendly with the natural environment, but also with the users themselves. A separate issue is the elimination of panels that have reached the end of their technical life. No waste is generated during the operation of the panels, and used or damaged panels are transferred to a specialized company and recycled.

Today, photovoltaic energy is in a phase of rapid development. For about 20 years, the number of photovoltaic installations has been constantly increasing; more and more households and companies are using this type of solution. However, photovoltaics, like any technology, is getting old. Therefore, the elimination of photovoltaic panels is an interesting topic for future investors.

The useful life of solar panels is limited. They can last between 25 and 30 years, after which they must be discarded. After 2025, the photovoltaic panels of the first assembly wave must be phased out. This topic is important because, by definition, photovoltaics must be a green solution.

Recycling of photovoltaic solar panels

Does solar panels produce any waste, the idea is that the panels are recycled to avoid any type of contamination.

Many people wonder if it is possible to recycle solar panels. The answer to this question is: “Yes, recycling of solar panels is possible.” Today, in Poland, solar panels are treated like any other electronic device. This is because anyone who wants to get rid of them can do so for free, on the same terms as in the case of the disposal of other electrical waste. Currently, the most common modules in the photovoltaic market are:

  • silicon,
  • thin film.

However, at this point it is also worth mentioning that many people approach the topic of used solar panels in a very creative way. Used solar panels can be used to make everyday objects, such as a tabletop  [i]  .

Silicon photovoltaic modules – recycling

First of all, silicon PV modules need to be disassembled and divided into aluminum and glass parts. Glass is a product that can be melted even 90% and then reused. The situation is similar for metal parts. However, the remaining elements are heat treated at a temperature of 500 ° C.  This treatment causes the plastic elements to evaporate and the silicon cells to remain resistant to high temperatures. Thanks to this, the efficiency of the entire process increases, and the processed plastic is able to cover a large part of the thermal demand of the infrastructure.

It is also worth emphasizing here that up to 80% of silicon cells can be reused. Those in the best technical condition can be acid etched and then enriched to restore their properties. The remaining silicon cells, on the other hand, are fused to form so-called  wafers, which are used to produce new photovoltaic modules  [ii]  .

Does solar panels produce any waste

Photovoltaic modules  thin film – recycling

Thin film module recycling is quite different. With this type of module, the entire element is shredded during recycling. For this, a shredder is used that shreds the panel in a fraction of 4-5 mm. This causes the glass laminate that supports the entire module to break, making it easier to remove. As in the case of silicon modules, also of thin film modules, even more than 90% of the glass can be recovered for reuse.

At this stage, there are two materials that need to be further separated:

  • solid metal,
  • metal in liquid form.

The separation of these materials is carried out by rotating the solids. Thanks to this treatment, the liquid metal flows into a special container. Then the separated materials are cleaned and further processed.

Who should recycle solar panels?

The process of using photovoltaic panels described above is not used. Why? In most countries, there are no regulations that explicitly regulate the recycling of photovoltaic devices. European Union law only recommends that the costs of recycling photovoltaic devices be charged to the producers. So the question arises: who should recycle solar panels, manufacturers or specialized companies?

There are plants on the Polish market that specialize in the disposal of electrical waste. It is these companies that deal with the treatment of various types of electrical waste, including photovoltaic panels, and it is there that these devices go through, among others,  the recycling process. Many companies that produce photovoltaic panels are also interested in recycling. They are working heavily to reduce the costs of the process to make it more economical.

What is happening to  damaged photovoltaic panels today?

The next questions to consider when it comes to recycling solar panels are:

  1. What is currently happening to the damaged panels?
  2. Are they recycled or stored in a special way?

In the case of damaged solar panels, the situation is simple and very beneficial for its users, the guarantee of their performance is 25-30 years, so the panels are returned to the manufacturer, who replaces them with other operational ones. Most of the modules available on the Polish market were developed in the last 3-4 years, so they are still subject to replacement and will be subject to replacement for many years  [iii]  .

However, the development of infrastructure for the recycling of photovoltaic modules is imperative. Although the current one in operation is quite sufficient at present, it must be remembered that the market for photovoltaic installations is constantly developing. We will face the task of recycling photovoltaic modules from the first years of installation in about five years. In the coming years, we will be dealing with the removal of all these panels that were installed on the wave of the growing popularity of photovoltaics. However, the projects being carried out today are capable of coping with this task.

Resume

It is safe to say that a properly installed and operated photovoltaic installation does not pose any threat to human life and health.