The U.S. solar industry continued its torrid growth in 2020, driven by market-leading pricing and climate change concerns. Industry expansion has been slowed, but not thwarted by the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the financial weight of Trump-era import tariffs. Utility scale and residential solar markets are booming, and the sheer number of solar modules being deployed is staggering.
The downside is that solar panels have finite lifespans; are difficult and expensive to recycle; and are being decommissioned in increasingly large numbers. The United States lags behind Europe and other regions in its PV recycling programs and policy progress, with the majority of unusable solar panels ending up in landfill.
According to Garvin Heath, senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it currently costs $20 to $30 to recycle a panel versus $1 to $2 to send it to a landfill, which is why he says research must focus on recovering solar-grade silicon to improve the economics of panel recycling.Solar panel recycling in the US — a looming issue that could harm industry growth and reputation – pv magazine USA