NREL Investigates Recycling Methods for Solar Tech, Want for Much less Materials

In a brand new complete literature assessment, researchers on the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have found that alternate options to recycling could have untapped potential to construct an efficient round economic system for solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery applied sciences. These various methods, akin to lowering using virgin supplies in manufacturing, reusing for brand spanking new purposes and lengthening product life spans, could present new paths to constructing sustainable product life cycles.

These insights come after an evaluation of greater than 3,000 scientific publications exploring the life cycle of the most typical PV and lithium-ion battery applied sciences, together with beginning supplies, environmental impacts and end-of-life choices. The NREL researchers examined 10 doable pathways towards a round economic system. The findings spotlight key insights, gaps and alternatives for analysis and implementation of a round economic system for PV and battery applied sciences, together with methods which are at the moment being underutilized.

Demand for PV panels and lithium-ion batteries is anticipated to extend because the United States shifts away from fossil fuels and deploys extra clear energy. Creating a sturdy round economic system for these applied sciences may mitigate demand for beginning supplies and cut back waste and environmental impacts. Circular economic system methods even have the potential to create clear energy jobs and handle environmental justice considerations.

“If you can keep them as a working product for longer, that’s better than deconstructing it all the way down to the elements that occurs during recycling,” says Garvin Heath, senior environmental scientist and energy analyst and distinguished member of analysis workers at NREL. The researchers observe the emphasis on recycling could overlook the challenges and alternatives that analysis into different methods may reveal. “And when a product does reach the end of its life, recycling is not the only option.”

The deconstruction course of takes extra energy and generates extra related greenhouse fuel emissions to then construct into one other product than protecting the primary product in use longer, Heath continues. He, alongside along with his NREL colleague Dwarakanath Ravikumar, are lead authors of the 52nd annual Critical Review of the Air & Waste Management Association, titled A Critical Review of Circular Economy for Lithium-Ion Batteries and Photovoltaic Modules — Status, Challenges, and Opportunities, which seems within the June version of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. Their co-authors, additionally from NREL, are Brianna Hansen and Elaine Kupets.

“People often summarize the product life cycle as ‘take, make, waste’,” Heath provides. “Recycling has received a lot of attention because it addresses the waste part, but there are ways to support a circular economy in the take part and the make part, too.”

Recycling to get well the supplies used within the applied sciences is preferable to discarding them in a landfill, Heath states. He believes the business ought to deal with beginning with an unique product design that already makes use of fewer supplies, particularly much less hazardous ones.

The authors additionally observe that challenges stay in creating PV and battery recycling strategies. There are at the moment no built-in recycling processes that may get well all of the supplies for both know-how and present analysis has centered extra on lab-scale strategies.

NREL is already main efforts to enhance PV reliability, lengthen PV life spans, cut back using hazardous supplies and reduce demand for beginning supplies. This consists of main the Durable Module Materials Consortium (DuraMAT), which is researching methods to increase the helpful lifetime of PV modules, and the Bio-Optimized Technologies to maintain Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Consortium, which is creating methods to enhance the recycling of plastics.

NREL can be a accomplice within the Argonne National Laboratory-led consortium ReCell, which works with business, academia and nationwide laboratories to advance recycling applied sciences alongside all the battery life cycle for present and future battery chemistries.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Solar Energy Technologies Office funded the analysis.

Image: Andreas Gücklhorn on Unsplash

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