The government needs to bring out a policy on solar module waste management and standards for use of material for manufacturing, according to consultancy Bridge To India.
“There is an urgent need to formulate appropriate quality standards for use of environmentally sustainable materials in manufacturing of modules. This will help in minimising potentially hazardous end-of-life module waste in India,” said a BTI statement.
The European Union (EU) already has an Eco-Design Directive 2009, a policy instrument to reduce environmental impact of energy-related products throughout their life cycle, the statement added.
Bridge To India (BTI) Managing Director Vinay Rustagi said while the solar sector continues to grow robustly, from a mere three gigawatt (GW) in 2014 to over 28 GW currently, there is still no clarity on solar waste management in India.
“To make solar a truly green source of energy, it is imperative for the industry as a whole to work together and proactively towards ensuring a sustainable waste management plan for solar energy systems,” he said.
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set an ambitious target of having 175GW of solar energy by 2022.
BTI has estimated the solar module waste volume to grow to 1.8 million tonne by 2050, which is close to the total e-waste volume being annually generated in India currently.
Solar modules use potentially hazardous materials, including lead compounds, polymers and cadmium compounds. If disposed of in an inappropriate way, potential leaching of those hazardous materials can have negative environmental and health impacts.
Currently, India neither has a requisite policy guideline nor the minimal operational infrastructure to ensure recycling of module waste using conventional recycling technologies. Even there is no such formal set of rules to manage the waste at the end of Module life after 20 to 25 years of operation.
Most of the central bidding documents rest the responsibility of handling and disposing photo voltaic (PV) waste on the developers as per E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. It said, “The e-waste rules make no mention of solar PV waste. Even the conventional recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable in the country.”
Solar module recycling is still not commercially attractive. Cost of recycling is estimated to vary between USD 250 and USD 300 per tonne in Europe and the US. Transportation cost can add 60 to 100 per cent to this cost depending on distance.
By comparison, the value of recovered materials is estimated to be only about USD 45-130 per tonne depending on the recycling technology used for crystalline silicon (c-Si) modules. Various attempts are being made, especially in the EU and the US, towards ensuring a higher recovery of raw materials in a cost-effective manner, it added.
According to The EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive revised in 2012 (2012/19/EU) addresses the waste management of all electronics, including waste PV modules, in the EU member states.
It requires 75%/65% (recovery/recycling rate) of waste PV modules by mass to be recycled through 2016, then increases to 80%/75% through 2018 and to 85%/80% thereafter. In addition to such a regulatory scheme, it is obvious that recycling technologies must be available to meet the increasing requirements of WEEE. Available recycling facilities that treat PV modules can meet current WEEE requirements; additional research and development (R&D) is required to meet subsequent WEEE requirements at reasonable cost.
Considering the information from the various sources India’s serious requirement to design policy on solar PV waste management, manufacturing standards.