THE STUDY OF LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF CRYSTALLINE
SILICON PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS
CHRISTIAN EMANUELL ZAZULAN
PUSAT PENGAJIAN PERUMAHAN BANGUNAN DAN
PERANCANGAN UNIVERSITI SAINS MALAYSIA
THE STUDY OF LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF CRYSTALLINE
SILICON PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS
CHRISTIAN EMANUELL ZAZULAN
A final year project report presented to the School of Housing Building and
Planning in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of
BACHELOR OF SCIENCE
31st May 2018
I declare that this project report entitled “The Study of Life Cycle Assessment of Crystalline
Silicon Photovoltaic Panels.” is the result of my own research except as cited in the
references. The project report has not been accepted for any degree and is not concurrently
submitted in candidature of any other degree.
Name: Christian Emanuell Zazulan
First and foremost I would like to sincerely thank to my supervisor, Dr. Faizal Baharum,
for his guidance, generosity to share his tremendous knowledge, for giving continuous support
from the starting of the research until the end of the program. He has given me a lot of
suggestion and the guideline for me to finish the report using appropriate approaches.
Secondly, I would like to thank to Dr.Sr. Md Azree Othuman as a coordinator of this
research and also the panel lecturers for giving informative feedback every progress
presentation. I am grateful to all of those with whom I have had the pleasure to work during
Last but not least, nothing more important for me to pursuit of this project than the
members of my family. I would like to thank my parents, whose love and guidance are with
me during the entire study and of course the research. I wish to thank my friends for giving
continuous support for giving any information that related to my research.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Figures…………………………………………………….….………………………..9
List of Tables…………………………………………………………………………………10
Chapter 1 Introduction
1.2. Problem Statement……………………………………………..……………………14
1.3. Research objective………………………………………………..…………………15
1.4. Research workflow……………………………………………………………………15
1.5. Scope of work…………………………………………………………………………16
1.6. Research limitations……………………………………………..…………..………17
1.7. Significance of research………………………………………………..……………18
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1. Introduction to Photovoltaic…………………………………………………………19
2.1.1. Solar panel components………………………………………….…………..21
2.1.2. Solar Cells Technologies…………………………………………..…………22
184.108.40.206. First Generation – Wafer Based Silicon……………………..……….23
220.127.116.11. Second Generation – Thin Films cells………………………..………24
18.104.22.168. Third Generation – Latest Emerging Technologies………………….25
2.2. Solar Photovoltaic waste modules…………………………………………………..26
2.2.1. Global solar growth……………………………………………………..……26
2.2.2. Solar Plant in Malaysia………………………………………………………27
2.2.3. Photovoltaic waste projection…………………………………………….….29
2.2.4. Concern for disposal solar photovoltaic………………………………………31
2.3. Photovoltaic Recycling……………………………………………………..……….32
2.3. Solar Recycling Process…………………………………………………………35
2.3. Recycling Technologies…………………………………………………………38
22.214.171.124. First Solar……………………………………………………..………40
126.96.36.199. PV Cycle ………………………………………………….…………42
188.8.131.52. Solar World ……………………………………………….…..…..…44
Chapter 3 Methodology
3.2 Research Process……………………………………………….…..……………….48
3.4 Life Cycle Assessment Overview……………………………………….…..………49
3.5 Material Processing…………………………………………….…..………………..50
Chapter 4 Results and Discussion
4.2 Current policies, practices and management of solar photovoltaic modules life at the
end of its life……………………………………………………………………………59
4.1.1. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive………………61
4.1.2. Solar Cells Recycling…………………..…………………………………….62
4.1.3. PV Panel waste management…………………………………………………63
4.3. Environmental impacts associated with the solar photovoltaic modules……………64
4.3.1 Global Warming Potential (GWP)………………………..………………….64
4.3.2 Acidification Potential (AP)………………………………………………….65
4.3.3 Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)……………………………………………66
4.3.4 Eutrophication Potential (EP)…………………………………………………67
4.3.5 Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP)……………………………68
5.0 Recommendation and Conclusion………………………………………………………..69
5.2 Recommendation for future research…………………………………………………70
List of Tables
number List of Tables Tittle Page
2.0 Evolution of PV solar energy 19
2.8 Recycling treatment for crystalline silicon 35
3.0(a) MG-Silicon production 50
3.0(b) MG-Silicon purification 51
3.0(c) MG-Silicon purification 52
3.0(d) Multi-Si casted production 53
3.0(e) Wafer production 54
3.0(f) Cell production 55
3.0(g) Panel production 56
3.0(h) Recycling process 57
List of Figures
number List of Figures Tittle Page
1.0 The framework of LCA methodology 13
2.0 The semiconductor p-n junction solar cell under load 20
2.2 Typical Silicon solar panel components 21
2.3 Different types of solar cells 22
2.4 Projected cumulative global PV capacity 26
2.5(a) Installed Capacity (MW) of Commissioned RE Installations
from 2012 – 2017) 27
2.5(b) Annual power generation (MWh) of commissioned RE
2.6 The estimated cumulative global waste volumes 30
2.7 The different type of PV with different component 32
2.9 Module Recycling Technology 40
2.10(a) PV Cycle Collection Channel 42
2.10(b) Treated PV Technologies 42
2.11 Treated waste tonnes 43
2.12 SolarWorld group of companies 44
2.13 Solar PV module recycling process 45
3.0 Flowchart of Research Methodology 48
3.1 Flow of the life-cycle stages applied to the solar PV panel. 49
4.0 Process flow diagram of Solar panel 63
4.1 Global warming potential (GWP) 64
4.2 Acidification Potential (AP) 65
4.3 Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) 66
4.4 Eutrophication Potential (EP) 67
4.5 Photochemical Ozone Creation (POCP) 68
Solar energy plays an essential role in the move towards renewable energy, with the use of
solar energy we were able to generate power from solar radiation into electrical energy. Solar
photovoltaic technology has definite environmental advantages over competing for the
conventional electricity generations. Solar energy is one of the cleanest energy sources that are
available and considered as a green source of energy. Solar energy offers less carbon emission,
no fossil duel required, long-term energy sources and others. Even though solar has various
advantages, it also rises up some negative impact on environmental. The environmental impact
is calculate using Gabi software. During the operational stages, there are less or no emission
releases, while for manufacturing and installation of the components give rise to emissions. An
issue with potential environmental implications is the decommissioning of solar cells at the end
of their service, the best solution will be recycling the solar cells. The loss of resources such as
aluminium, and silver, as well as the cell’s components, lead and cadmium leaching could have
a negative impact on the environment and human health if the solar modules simply discharged
on landfills. Obviously, these materials will become scarce and affect the future production of
solar modules, thus by recycling the modules would bring benefits. The main objective of this
study is to identify the current policies and waste management practices of solar photovoltaic
at the end of their life and also will identify the potential environmental impact throughout its
Tenaga solar memainkan peranan penting dalam usaha untuk menggerakkan tenaga boleh
diperbaharui, dengan menggunakan tenaga suria ia dapat menjana tenaga daripada radiasi
matahari menjadi tenaga elektrik. Tenaga solar mempunyai kelebihan berbanding tenaga
elektrik konvensional dari segi persekitaran.Tenaga solar adalah salah satu sumber tenaga
paling bersih yang tersedia dan dianggap sebagai sumber tenaga hijau. Tenaga suria
melepaskan kurang karbon dioksida, tiada pertentangan fosil diperlukan, sumber tenaga jangka
panjang dan lain-lain. Walaubagaimanapun, tenaga suria mempunyai pelbagai keburukan,
kerana ia juga menimbulkan beberapa kesan negatif terhadap alam sekitar. Impak alam sekitar
dikira dalam kajian ini dengan menggunakan perisian Gabi. Semasa peringkat operasi, terdapat
pelepasan pelepasan yang kurang atau tidak, sementara untuk pembuatan dan pemasangan
komponen menimbulkan pelepasan. Satu isu dengan implikasi alam sekitar yang berpotensi
adalah pembongkaran sel suria pada akhir perkhidmatan mereka, penyelesaian terbaik akan
mengitar semula sel solar. Kehilangan sumber seperti aluminium, dan perak, serta komponen
sel, pelepasan plumbum dan kadmium boleh memberi kesan negatif terhadap alam sekitar dan
kesihatan manusia jika modul solar hanya dilepaskan di tapak pelupusan. Jelas sekali, bahan-
bahan ini akan menjadi langka dan menjejaskan pengeluaran masa depan modul solar, oleh itu
dengan mengitar semula modul-modul itu akan mendatangkan faedah. Objektif utama kajian
ini adalah untuk mengenal pasti dasar semasa dan amalan pengurusan sisa solar photovoltaic
pada akhir hayat mereka dan juga akan mengenal pasti potensi kesan alam sekitar sepanjang
Chapter 1 Introduction
Over the past few decades, the renewable energy has brought many benefit to our daily
life and eventually reducing the amount of non-renewable energy. This energy demands can
be supplied from various resources which can be divided into two categories; non-renewable
and renewable. Some examples of non-renewable energy are coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
While renewable energy, these includes energy generated from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal
and biomass (Abbott, 2010). Currently, the world’s primary energy is mostly supplied through
fossil fuels, which had their reserves constantly diminished. The consumption of energy from
the non-renewable energy causes various impact on social and environment as it polluted our
planet, it also associated with global climate change. The increased concerns for environmental
impacts of conventional fossil fuels, most importantly, those related to climate change, has
been the main factor driving the transition towards green energy and generation of power most
favourably from renewable energy sources that are abundant and free (Mekhilef S, et. al, 2011).
The government and industries all around the world are increasingly looking for ways to
reduce the greenhouse emissions from their operations with a major focus on the use and
installations of sustainable renewable energy systems (Saidur et, al. 2011).Thus, there is urgent
need for developing renewable energy technologies, especially photovoltaic (PV), to cope with
the challenge of energy shortage and environmental pollution (Nishimura, et al. 2010). The
solar energy resource is renewable, abundant and freely available across the globe. The
photovoltaic (PV) system which convert sunlight to electricity is a promising renewable energy
alternative from future prospect (Chandel et al, 2013).
In addition, the major advantages of solar photovoltaic (PV) are no release pollutant, low
maintenance and high reliability, with life span expectation of 20-30 years made solar power a
favourable source of energy to be used in the future (Mekhilef et al., 2012). Thus, the life cycle
management of solar panel is vital to ensure the complete sustainability is meet. This reports
aims to study about the life cycle assessment for crystalline silicon of solar photovoltaic panel.
Some example of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells materials include multi-crystalline silicon,
mono-crystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, and thin film technologies, such as cadmium
telluride (CdTe), and copper indium diselenide (CIS). Among the difference technologies,
crystalline-silicon PV technology still dominates the market, accounting for 85-90% of the
technology share (International Energy Agency IEA, 2014). Today, around 90% of PV waste
consists of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and the other 10% is accounted for by thin-films cells,
which to date include CIS (Cu, In, Se), CdTe, amorphous and microcrystalline technologies
(Choi et, al. 2014).
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates a total installed capacity of around
227.1 GW at the end of 2015 (International Energy Agency IEA, 2014). Today, the installed
capacity of solar PV modules has reached an estimated power of 222GW, and it is expected to
reach the 4500 GW threshold by 2050 (Weckend et al., 2016). The average lifetime of
crystalline silicon photovoltaic module is estimated in 25-30 years because of the deterioration
of encapsulated materials and wires with the huge amount of solar panel installations (Granata
et al., 2014). Thus, can expect huge volume of waste that will be accumulated in 20-30 years
times. However, recycling of PV modules is limited for the moment, partly due to the modest
volume of waste available (Weckend et al., 2016) .
In order to tackle this situation, an investigation to manage the waste must begin to solve
the future problem. If the PV waste are disposed to open landfills without proper treatment, it
can harm the environment and human health because of leaching of lead and cadmium also
loss of conventional resources (such as glass and aluminium and rare metals like indium,
gallium and germanium). Cadmium has been associated with numerous human illness like
kidney and bone damage. It accumulates in the natural environment by leaching into ground
water and surface water from landfills (Fthenakis et al., 2008).
In order to analyse the life cycle of the solar PV modules, it is vital to implement the
International Standardization Organisation (ISO) 14040 standard. The life cycle assessment
(LCA) is a technique to compare and analyse the energy and environmental impacted
associated with the products during of its life cycle, the framework of LCA methodology is
shown in figure 1. (International Organization for Standardization, 2006).
Figure 1.0 The framework of LCA methodology (ISO 14040, 1997).
The LCA stages includes definition of goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, impact
assessment and interpretation of results. The arrows represent the flows of pollutants, materials,
resources are recorded in inventory analysis. These flows is the consumption from the product
during its life cycle such as resources consumption, emission, are characterize and aggregated
for different environmental problems in impact assessment and the conclusion are found in
interpretation stage (International Organization for Standardization, 2006).
1.2 Problem Statement
The increasing number of usage solar photovoltaic panel as an alternative energy
resources become more popular globally, as many company, individuals, or organisations
realize the importance of sustainable energy. However, if the solar panel are not disposed
properly after the end of life of the solar panel which is around 20 years average. Currently the
solar panel recycling is in low amount because waste that generated are too small, mostly only
broken panel are disposed. Significant volume of end-of-life photovoltaic panels will only
begin to appear in 2025 or 2030 (Monier et, al. 2011). It is still long way to go, but it is good
practice to ensure we will be prepared what will happened, if not the decommissioning of this
solar panel may bring harm to human life.
The major problem of these solar photovoltaic panels, if not disposed properly it can cause
serious harm to societies such as leaching of cadmium is considered as “extremely toxic” by
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S Occupational Safety and Health
Association (OSHA). Potential health impacts include kidney, liver, bone, and blood damage
from ingestion and lung cancer from inhalation(Tsoutsos et al., 2005). In addition, leaching of
Lead, is also considered toxic that can polluted drinking water. While the other components if
not disposed properly, it may cause permanent depletion such as metals like indium and gallium.
This research, will be focusing the environmental impacts that associated with the end of
life time of the crystalline silicon solar modules. In addition, this research will also focus on
the policies and regulations that related with the solar PV waste management, this is due to
ensure every company that manufacture the solar will be responsible after the end of service of
the solar modules.
1.3 Research Objectives
The research objectives of this study are:
1. To identify the current policies, practices and management of solar photovoltaic modules
at the end of their life.
2. To identify the potential environmental impacts associated with the solar photovoltaic
throughout its life cycle.
1.4 Research workflow
Through this study, there are number of research methodologies were used to study the
encounter problem statement and to achieve the research objective successfully:
I. Determination of Research Title
II. Identify the problem statement
III. Identify the Research Objectives
IV. Literature Review (Journal, articles, books, ISO 14040, thesis, and books)
V. Data Collection (Based on Gabi Software)
VI. Data Analysis and Discussion
VII. Recommendation and future works.
1.7 Scope of works
In this research aimed to determine the current policies and regulation involving the solar
panel life cycle assessment and to identify potential environmental impacts that associated with
the end of its life time. In order to identify the current policies and regulation regarding the end
of life solar modules, it requires information from the website, recent literature review, and
journal. Each continents may have vary policies on how they handle the solar waste, this
research will identify the latest from the European Union and other countries, as this European
continents is the first to implement such a rules on solar waste management.
For the next objectives is identify the potential environmental impact, will be calculate
using Gabi software simulation, even though it give you the result with certain amount the
software only predicted the value according to their database. The software are limited for
education only, however it good enough to be used for this research.
2.1.2 Research Limitation
I. The first limitation, the time constraints. This research was conducted less than six
months. Six months is not enough to cater all the literature and analyse the data. It
would be ideal if it was done in a longer time, to have better findings from the research.
II. The second limitation, lack of previous studies in the research area. Literature review
is an important information of any research, this is because it helps to determine the
works that have been done so far in the research area. Literature review is the foundation
of any research to achieve the research objectives.
III. The third limitations, the lack of cooperation from the manufacturing company. Most
of the manufacturing company that have been approached not allowing to visit their
factory and not willing to share information related to solar cells manufacturing and
waste management. This will become difficult, as this manufacturing have better
experience and knowledge in the research area.
1.7 Significance of Research
The installed solar panel is increasing due to energy demands around the world. The average
lifetime of solar panel can up to 25-30 years. After that it will become waste, at this stage it is
important to have proper waste management to ensure all the accumulated waste will be handle
carefully by recycle and reuse it again. There have been studies shows that each panel can be
recycled up to 90% of its weight, this are basically the glass, copper and aluminium. If the solar
panel can be recycle and reuse it again, the future price of raw material solar panel will be
reduce, thus the cost of the panel will be cheaper. In addition, it can increase the sustainability
energy from the solar panel at the end of its lifetime.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Introduction to Photovoltaic
There are plenty of available solar photovoltaic in the market nowadays, with hundreds
of company are involved in manufacturing the PV modules that comes with different packages
of efficiency of the solar panel. A solar photovoltaic cell, is an electrical device that converts
the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and
chemical phenomenon (Bagher, 2015). The history of PV began in 1839, when Alexandre-
Edmund Becquerel observed that “electrical currents arose from certain light induced chemical
reactions (Chapin, et. al, 1954). Furthermore, the similar effect were observed several decade
later by other scientist. In the late 1940s, the development of the initial solid state devices start
to become more popular in the energy industry as the first silicon cell is going to be developed,
while the efficiency during the time is 6% (Chapin, et.al, 1954). Furthermore, the scientists
discovered the silicon have the capability to generate an electric charge when it exposed to the
sunlight, this inventions was found by the scientist at Bell Telephone. Later, solar cells were
being used to power space satellites and smaller items like calculators and watches (Jovanovic,
2017). The table 1.0 provides scientist and year the evolution of the PV solar energy (El Chaar
et al., 2011).
Table 2.0 The evolution of PV solar energy (El Chaar et al., 2011).
The beginning of photovoltaic solar cells are thin silicon wafers which convert sunlight
energy into electricity see figure 1.0. Solar cells is an electronic device inside the solar modules
that become the essential part of the panel, in which it convert solar energy directly into
electricity, either directly via the photovoltaic effect, or indirectly by first converting the solar
energy to heat or chemical energy (Swami, 2012).
Figure 2.0 The semiconductor p-n junction solar cell under load (Swami, 2012).
The operation of a photovoltaic (PV) cell requires 3 basic concepts. Firstly, the
absorption of light, generating either electron-hole pairs or exactions. Secondly, the separation
of charge carriers of opposite types. Thirdly, the separate extraction of those carriers to an
external circuit.(Bagher, 2015). The modern photovoltaic technology is based on the principle
of electron hole creation in each cell composed of two different layers (p-type and n-type
materials) of a semiconductor material (Sharma et al., 2015). Solar energy is the most
promising backup energy as it has many advantages over other resources. Solar energy is a
naturally available and clean energy source derived from the sun that can be exploited directly
to generate electricity (Mekhilef et al., 2012). Moreover, According to Fraunhofer Institute,
2016, the solar photovoltaics become the fast growing market, the Compound Annual Growth
Rate (CAGR) of PV installations was 40% between 2010 to 2016.
2.1.2 Solar Panel Components
Each solar component have different element and mass. The typical of crystalline silicon
PV module have four main components which are the front cover, encapsulate, solar cells, and
the back cover as shown in the figure 1.1. The need of encapsulate behave as adhesive and
connects the front and back cover. This type of solar panel is specifically for the photovoltaic
crystalline silicon that are made with each components mass (Wenham, et. al, 2013). The glass
consists (~75%), aluminium frame (~10%), copolymer encapsulant (~7%, e.g. EVA, ethylene-
vinyl-acetate, PVB, poly-vinyl- butyral or TPO, thermoplastic polyolefine elastomer),
protective back sheet (~4%, e.g. PVF, polyvinyl-fluoride, or glass), photovoltaic cells (~3%),
junction box and electrical contacts (~1%). It should be noted that the photovoltaic cells are a
very minor mass fraction compared to the total weight of the module.
Figure 2.2 Typical silicon solar panel components (Pern, 2009).
2.1.2 Type of Solar Cells Technologies
Solar cells are named after the semiconductor that are used inside the solar panel, which
generate the electricity when the sunlight onto the solar panel. Solar cells able to be made only
for one single layer of light-absorbing material which known as “single-junction” or use
multiple physical configurations which refer as “multi-junctions”, this also to get the advantage
of various absorption and charge separation mechanisms. According to Mohammad Bagher,
2015, Solar cells can be classified into first, second and third generation cells. There are two
types of photovoltaic technology that are available in the market today, which are crystalline
silicon with based PV cells and thin film technologies, that is made from various different types
semi-conductor materials such as amorphous silicon, cadmium-telluride and copper indium
gallium diselenide (Timilsina et al., 2011). Figure 1.2 is the different type of solar cells that are
available, from first generation, second generation and third generation.
Figure 2.3 Different types of solar cells
184.108.40.206 First Generation – Wafer based silicon
The wafers based silicon is the first generation of solar cells. It is the oldest and the most
popular technology because of the high efficiencies that it produces from the cells (Sharma et
al., 2015). This silicon wafer are classified into solar cell which are mono-crystalline silicon
cell and multi-crystalline silicon cell. Moreover, photovoltaic production is dominated by
single-junction solar cells based on silicon wafers including single crystal (c-Si) and multi-
crystalline silicon (mc-Si), these types of cells commonly referred as first generation (1G)
technology (Bagnall et. al, 2008). As mentioned, by Fraunhofer Institute (2016), for mono-
crystalline and multi-crystalline silicon have achieved lab efficiency with 26.7% and 21.9%
respectively, while for thin film cells was recorded for CIGS is 21.7% and CdTe is 21.0%. The
first generation of PV silicon is made by crystalline structure which taking silicon to produce
the solar cells in order to make solar panel.
Silicon is currently predominating solar cell material and is expected to remain dominant
until a more inexpensive material and higher e?ciency PV technologies are developed (El
Chaar et al., 2011). The single crystal silicon (Si) solar cell exhibits a conversion efficiency of
about 25% and has dominated the solar cell in market (Han et al., 2017). The majority of PV
modules (85% to 90% of the global annual market) are based on wafer-based crystalline-Si.
The manufacturing of crystalline silicon modules will begin with ingots of silicon, then it will
be cut into wafers in order to make it solar cells, electricity are connected in the cells and the
module will be encapsulate the solar cells (Chu, 2011). In addition, this type of cells modules
has globally evolved, also it has achieved the highest module efficiency under standard test
condition. Furthermore, crystalline silicones have most highly developed manufacturing
process (Gul et al., 2016). The drawback about crystalline silicon is the amount of energy that
it takes to manufacture the silicon and that, in the production of the cells, almost half of that
silicon is lost during the wafer sawing process (Galland, 2012).
220.127.116.11 Second Generation – Thin films cells
The thin film solar cells and a-Si are fall under second generation solar cells, thin film
PV modules have lower conversion efficiency than crystalline silicon, but require less material
and energy during life cycle due to the relatively low temperature production technologies
(Baharwani et al., 2014). Thin film solar cells are classified as amorphous silicon (a-Si),
Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium di-selenide (CIGS), and thin film silicon
(Si-film). In comparison with crystalline silicon cells, the benefit of thin-films is the reducing
cost of photovoltaic array which by reducing material and manufacturing the cells lifetime,
also the impact of hazards towards the environment (El Chaar et al., 2011).
Second generation PV offers the potential to bring the costs down and financial pay-back
also energy pay-back times compared to first generation, just as long as efficiency and
fabrication costs per unit area remain comparable to first generation technology (Bagnall and
Boreland, 2008). Thus, it can be seen that this cells have future potential to compete with the
silicon based materials, this is vital to ensure that we make sure the raw materials will not
depletion in the future.
In addition, Cadmium telluride currently has the lowest cost to manufacture compare to
other thin film technologies. Copper indium gallium selenide cells have proven to have better
efficiencies for thin film with laboratory efficiencies up to 20%, while amorphous silicon is a
form of silicon that exhibits no long-range order in its crystal structure (Galland, 2012). The
word “Amorphous Silicon” means a non- crystalline structure, lacks a definite arrangement of
atoms. As compared to traditional silicon methods, silicon is deposited as very thin layer on
backside of substrate.(Kaur and Singh, 2016). The potential of the second generation to
reducing the cost per watt of PV in large scale production is through reduced its material usage,
even though the expansion of this solar cells is slower than expected (Bagnall and Boreland,
18.104.22.168 Third Generation – Latest emerging technologies
This type of technology are the most exciting technology. However, this type of cells it’s
not available in the market, due to its still in the laboratory scale for research and development.
The main emerging or novel thin-film solar cells include (Ibn-Mohammed et al., 2017). One
of the cells in this generations are Copper zinc tin sulphide (CZTS), this cells films contain
neither rare metal or toxic material and it can be combine together with cadmium free buffer
layer in order to produce solar cells that are purely generate no toxic (Vasekar et. al, 2013). At
present, the current highest solar conversion efficiency for solution processed CZTS-based
solar cells is 10.1% (Barkhouse et. al, 2012).
Secondly, Perovskite solar this newly developed cells are still under research, efficiencies
of perovskite cells have jumped from 3.8% in 2011 to over 20% by 2014. While perovskite
solar cell technology is yet to be consolidated for commercial modules, cells can be very cheap
as they are made from relatively abundant elements such as ammonia, iodine and lead
(Khetarpal, 2016). Thirdly, Organic photovoltaics (OPV) it have potential to give earth
abundant with low energy production of PV solution, due to it uses small molecules of organic
compounds or polymer to absorb light and consists mostly of earth abundant elements that can
be fabricated into thin films using low cost deposition methods such as thermal evaporation
and inkjet printing (Jean, 2015).
Next, Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), it were invented in 1991 by Professor Michael
Graetzel and Dr Brian O’Regan at École. This solar cells able to convert any visible light into
electrical energy. This cells can be similar to artificial photosynthesis due to it able mimics
nature’s absorption of light energy (Bagher et al., 2015). Lastly, Colloidal quantum dot
photovoltaics (QDPV)This cells which based a quantum dot is a nanocrystal that produced
from a semiconductor component which is too small that the laws of quantum mechanics have
to be taken into account (Ibn-Mohammed et al., 2017).
2.2. Solar Photovoltaic waste modules
2.2.1 Global solar growth
The conventional energy generation driving concerns for environmental impact as it
could result in climate change, green energy and generation of energy is the most favourably
renewable energy sources that are available with no cost (Mekhilef et al., 2012). As Solar PV
become the dominant source of energy, more people tend to utilize the opportunity of the
sunlight into electricity. , Global installed PV power reached 310 GW in 2016 and is expected
to reach approximately 395 GW by the end of 2017, an increase by 85 GW. In the mid-term
(by 2020), the global capacity could triple to 700 GW, while in the long term (by 2050), it
could amount to 4500 GW (Sica et al., 2018a).
According a study from IRENA, in 2015 capacity increased by 8.3% or 152 GW, the
highest annual growth rate on record, while the global solar PV capacity added in 2015 made
up 47 GW of this increase, cumulatively reaching 222 GW at the end of 2015, up from 175
GW in 2014 (Weckend et al., 2016). Over the last five years, country in Asia such as China
and Taiwan already account up to 70% of worldwide PV production, in which it consider the
most rapid growth in annual production of PV (Jäger-Waldau, 2013). Figure 1.3 represent the
cumulative PV capacity (GW) from year 2000 to 2050.
Figure 2.4 Projected cumulative global PV capacity (IRENA, 2016)
2.2.2 Solar Plant in Malaysia
Malaysia is a famous with its tropical climate with abundant sunshine every year with an
average of 12 hours sunshine daily. While, the government seek for potential renewable energy
from the sources of solar, biogas/landfill, biomass/solid waste or hydro as another alternative
to ensure the sustainability of energy resources and energy security(Mekhilef et al., 2012). The
solar PV is an alternative option to generate green electricity and becoming one of the best
option technology in Malaysia. The Malaysia 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) has launched a
new RE act and Feed-in-tariff (FiT) mechanism (Mun et al., 2015). The figure 1.4 is the
installed capacity (MW) granted with feed-in tariff approvals under the FiT mechanism and
which have achieved the FiT commencement date.
Figure 2.5(a) Installed Capacity (MW) of Commissioned RE Installations from
2012 – 2017 (Source: SEDA Website)
Solar PV annual installed capacities from 2012 to 2018 were 31.54 MW, 107 MW, 64.89 MW,
60.32MW, 76.45MW and 19.65 (SEDA, 2017) and its share in the RE installed capacity mix
has been above 66% since 2013. As of April 2017, solar PV generating capacity from the FiT
scheme stood at 314MW (Choong, 2017).
201220132014201520162017Installed capacity (MWh)
Installed Capacity (MW) of Commissioned RE
The total installed will be increasing substantially after the government introduces the
implementation of Large Scale Solar Photovoltaic (LSSPV) farms, with aim to add 200MW
capacity every year starting from 2017-2020, thus this will create a platform for healthy merit
based competition among potential solar power produces and at the same time it can reduce
burden of the government who has initiated and assisted the industry from the very beginning
(Malaysia Energy Commission, 2016). Hence, there is potential other sources of RE in
Malaysia such as biomass, biogas, municipal waste and mini hydro, solar PV has been known
as the source of energy that have highest potential in satisfying the energy need in Malaysia
(Chua, 2016). In addition Malaysia have a strategic geographical location, Malaysia benefits
from a large quantity of solar insolation per year, ranging from 1400 to 1900 kW h/m2/year
(Ahmad, 2011) averaging about 1643 kW h/m2/year (Chua, 2010) with more than 10 sun hours
per day (Amin, 2009). Figure 1.5 represent the annual power generation in (MWh) of
commissioned RE installations. The power generation started on 2012 to 2017 respectively,
0.004MW, 0.005MW, 0.18MW, 0.26MW, 0.31MW and 0.34MW (SEDA, 2017).
Figure 2.5(b) Annual power generation (MWh) of commissioned RE installations
(Source: SEDA website)
Annual Power generation
Annual Power Generation (MWh) of Commissioned RE
2.2.4 Photovoltaic waste projection
In recent years, solar PV energy become the favourably and recognition sources of energy
worldwide, things to know that as solar PV market is increasing, so does the waste. Nowadays,
around 90% of PV waste consists of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and the other 10% is thin films
cells such as, CIS (Cu, In, Se), CdTe, amorphous and microcrystalline technologies (Hahne
and Gerhard, 2010). Even though, most of crystalline silicon PV modules is estimated to have
a lifetime of 25-30 years that are guarantee from the manufacturer (Granata et al., 2014).
However, during the lifetime of solar panel, a drop in efficiency will occur of not more than
20% per panel, and this will affect the amount of electricity that produced will be occurred. On
the flip side, slow corrosion of the PV modules leads to metallization discoloration, power
degradation and degradation of semi-conducting and metallic materials (Auer, 2015).
The amount of PV waste that will be generate and disposed is expected to grow
exponentially after year 2030, while in 2008 the amount of PV waste generated in the EU was
about 3,800 tons and by 2030, the PV waste is expected to rise up to 130,000 tons, this is
because most of the solar panel are installed recently, and the lifetime is expected to end around
2030 (Larsen, 2009a). Various public and private organisations making an effort to ensure the
issues of end of life solar PV modules, some example of non-profit organisation that has come
up to ensure the safe to recycle and disposed the PV modules. PV Cycle, together with non-
profit association working throughout Europe by expecting the recycling rates of 80% by 2015
and 85% by 2020 (PV Cycle, 2012). In the United States, the end-of-life for PV modules is
manage by the Federal Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), in which they will
separate the hazardous and solid waste based on series of guideline. Based on RCRA the way
to determine if the PV is classifies as hazardous waste is through the lab assessment which is
Toxic Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test (Carolina et al., 2017).
According to IRENA, 2016 the solar PV has increasing at unprecedented rates since the early
2000s, with this we can expect the waste will appear 25-30 years after it installed. With the
huge amount number of waste that will be generated in the future, it will present some challenge
to our environment, but also bring up the opportunities to create value to the global economy,
these will include recovery of raw material and the appearance of new solar PV end-of-life
industries. Sector such PV recycling will be vital in the solar PV economy to ensure the
sustainability is maintain (Weckend et al., 2016). Figure 1.6 represent the number of PV
regular-loss scenario, early-loss scenario and cumulative PV capacity from year 2016 – 2050.
Figure 2.6 the estimated cumulative global waste volumes (IRENA, 2016)
According to IRENA, 2016 the regular-loss scenario assumes a 30-year lifetime for solar
panels, without early attrition, while the early-loss scenario is consider to be damage, loss
efficiency, and failure before it reach the estimated life span which is 30 years. It is vital to
realize that the solar PV have been installed, will become waste after its lifetime in few decades,
some of this waste will contain hazardous material and it will be the responsibility of
governments to regulate the policies of manufacturing and the safe disposal guidelines of these
materials (Pearce and McDonald, 2010).
2.2.4 Concern for disposal solar photovoltaic
Solar PV energy recently has gained to attention around the globe, as it harvest the
sunlight and convert the sunlight into energy. The current growth in economy of solar PV is
large and proper planning is needed to ensure the future solar waste will be well controlled,
otherwise it will be huge disaster to our environment. The problem that associated with the PV
modules is at the end of their use is yet suitably solved (Corcelli et al., 2017). The panel are
expected to last about 30 years, and then it will need to be dispose or recycle without jeopardy
the environment.(Fthenakis et al., 2011). Similarly, solar modules present safety, health, and
environmental concerns after their lifetime, disposing the solar modules on open landfills will
become great challenge for the government and local authorities to manage the waste due to
the hazardous materials such as the solar cells in the modules (Aman et al., 2015).
One of the major concerns regarding the PV end of life treatment and disposal is the
emission of hazardous materials such as chromium, lead, and toxic gas, as hydrofluoric acid,
as it could discharged to the environment if special requirement for their handling and disposal
are adopted (Fthenakis and Bowerman, 2003). In the decommissioning the solar PV, it will be
associated with the presence of CdTe and CdS solar films and the presence of Pb in x-Si
modules if they contain Pb base solder. If these PV waste end it up in the municipal landfills,
then the potential of heavy metals leaching out in the soil will occurs (Fthenakis, 2003). In
addition, if the PV waste disposed in the landfills without proper treatment it can harm the
environment and human health because of the leaching cadmium and lead, and loss of
conventional resources. Cadmium has been associated with multiple number of human illness
such as kidney and bones damage, it accumulates in the natural environment by leaching into
the ground water and surface water from landfills (Fthenakis et al., 2008). Thus, to it is vital to
make sure that the regulation and policies are required to control the waste that will appear in
the next decades, if not it will jeopardy the human health and environment.
2.3. Photovoltaic Recycling
The increasing of solar PV usage, the amount of waste will be generated by solar PV
products in the future is also increasing ans it is becoming important to set up recycling
management for this waste (Hahne and Gerhard, 2010). By recycling, it could bring the benefit
to our environment, market acceptability, and support, environmental regulations,and
resources avaiability, especially in recycling product it will eventually saving the landfills
space, energy, emissions and raw materials (Corcelli et al., 2017). Recycling solar panel can
be challenging due to each panels have various types of materials. The panel contain metals
such as lead, copper, gallium and cadmium, glass, aluminium frame, silicon solar cells, and
synthetic material encapsilate the silicon. This materials will need to be separate first before if
can be recycled in the suitable way. The solar cells that not broken or damage sometimes can
be recovered and reused in new products (Lozanova, 2017). Figure 1.7 shows the feasibility of
recycling of different type of PV with different component. The highest share is the glass follow
with aluminium and etc.
Figure 2.7 the different type of PV with different component (IRENA 2016b)
The general components that consists from the solar panel which include glass,
aluminium, copper, and solar cells. This materials can be recovered successfully and reused it
to make new panels (Kang et al., 2012). Recycling these materials helps conserve the supplies
of these finite resources. Furthermore, According to study by (Release, 2016) It estimated the
recyclable materials from solar PV panel, contain majority of glass, could total 78 million
tonnes globally by 2050, if fully injected back into the economy, the value of recovered
material may exceed USD 15 billion by 2050. The materials that being used in solar panel can
potentially generate around 2 billion solar panel or solar into the global market, thus it could
maximize the security of future solar panel products.
The waste from solar PV have different material that will be able to be reused to make
new panels, electronic devices and other products. Recycling of PV modules is limited at the
moment, this is due to the low waste of volume generated (Weckend et al., 2016). Recycling
PV modules will be the best solution to make sure the raw materials are conserved as well as,
energy and land resources, also it could save energy and reduce emission during its process,
especially materials contain high impurities which often require high energy such as glass
production releasing CO2 (Held, 2009). Although, recycling is an important things for solar
PV, literature regarding the end-of-life matter in detail for crystalline silicon solar PV panels
is quite challenging to find especially topics about re-used and recycling methods, due to
recycling is the recent issues grab attention to many people especially government and
manufacturer. In addition, recycling has not been fully studied as an alternative to solar PV
panel disposal (Contreras-Lisperguer et al., 2017).
Moreover, as stated by Corcelli et al. (2015), many laboratory-scale or pilot industrial
processes have been developing recently by private companies and public research globally to
demonstrate the actual potential of recycling solar PV. Also, similar statement (Weckend et al.
(2016), solar PV panel recycling technologies have been researched and implemented in the
past decade, and have been shown the capability to recover over 95% of PV materials especially
the semiconductor and over 90% of the glass in a PV panel. Recycling is the most preferable
method or strategy of end of life for PV modules, the expected increasing number of demand
for PV modules will increase the importance the valuable and rare semiconductor materials
(Choi and Fthenakis, 2010).
Though, most PV panels that have been produced today will have a useful life for decades,
there is inevitable waste created when panels are damaged during shipment or installation,
determined to be defective, or become obsolete. High-value recycling can help reducing life
cycle impacts and recover valuable and energy intensive materials, thereby increasing
sustainability within the PV industry (Butler, 2016). Hence, if the precious raw materials like
silicon sells can be reclaimed from the waste or re-used component such as x-si wafers can be
protect, then reclaim value could potentially higher to motivate the recycling strategies, if the
materials cannot be recovered in a reusable manner, then the value is low and recycling will
become uneconomic. Thus, the economic perspective of recycling is a strong influence in order
to increase the value of reclaimable materials (Eberspacher and Fthenakis, 1997).
2.3.1 Solar Recycling Process
The two most common solar cells that required attention to recycled are silicon based and thin-
film based, both of this cells are able to be recycle using the latest technology in the industrial
processes. At the moment, silicon are most common solar cells due to high market share
compare to thin-film based, the recent studies have shown that recycling solar panel have
reached up to 96% recycling efficiency (Green Match, 2015). The main process of recycling
solar panel can be categorized into three step, which are delamination, materials separation and
metal extraction or purification and other technologies may be applied in every stages (Tao and
Yu, 2015). Several laboratory scale or pilot study have been conducted for recycling process
recently by private companies and public research organisation to shows the feasibility benefits
offered by recycling the solar PV modules (Giacchetta et al., 2013).
The state of the art recycling process for solar panel focusing on recovery the vital materials as
it mixture of different material, as mentioned by the current WEEE directive for electronic
waste, which also include the solar panel. Furthermore, the current state of the art process aims
to recycle up to 80% of the solar PV panel weight (Olson et al., 2013). Table 1.8 represent the
recycling treatment for crystalline silicon, that are used by several recycling manufactures and
companies (Auer, 2015).
Table 2.8 Recycling treatment for crystalline silicon (Source: Auer, 2015)
Upcycle refers to the reusing an object in a new way without degrading the materials on
the first hand. The cost efficiency of solar PV modules recycling depends greatly on whether
the high quality of components in the modules are able to recovered is achieved. The process
of reinventing of used items can also be known as waste materials to reproduced by providing
new function with higher value, in another word, making the old items to new items again. (Ali
et al., 2013). Furthermore, the heterogeneous materials in the solar PV modules can be
classified according to their quality is important. The solar cells inside the modules consists
the reuse semiconductor which are silicon, cadmium sulphide, indium, tellurium, gallium and,
cadmium (Klugmann-Radziemska et al., 2010). Usually, the recycling process for recovering
solar PV modules will begin with disassembly the aluminium frame and junction box, mostly
done manually by hand, then it followed with removing the EVA layer to ensure the separation
the glass from the silicon cells (Kang et al., 2012). As reported by Allen et al (2000), the most
commonly method to dissembled the EVA layer is by using thermal treatment method.
Treatment of crystalline silicon modules are currently on pilot study, the treatment
involving both thermal and chemical process. This study are conducted by Deutche Solar AG
in 2003, the main goal is to assess the environmental impact of the recycling process as well
as the Energy Pay Back Time (EPBT) of new PV modules compare to created using recycled
solar cells (Corcelli et al., 2017). The two common stages of recycling firstly using thermal
process, this method require to disassemble the module as simple as possible with economical
cost, the EVA (Ethylene and Vinyl Acetate) laminated with cells are separated in this process.
At the second stage , by using chemical process, it is possible to recover both silicon (powdered
silicon) and sheets (Vellini et al., 2017).
Down-cycling refer is a recycling that consists of breaking up an items into its
components materials. The aims of down-cycling is to minimizing the waste while improving
the efficiency of the raw materials. Once, each of the materials are recovered it will be reused
usually in lower value product (Li et al., 2009). The PV modules consists of glass takes 74%
of mass which is highest, aluminium frame amounts 10% whereas all polymers add up to 6.5%
the solar cells mass is 3% only. While, other materials (like Zn, Pb) contribute less than 1%.
(Dubey et al., 2013). Since the glass is the highest share based on their mass in solar PV
modules, there is a solid reason to recycling the glass and other materials as well. There are
three steps to reintroduce into glass recycling process, which are important:(Auer, 2015)
3. Process in the flat glass recycling line
The first step is to remove the box and frame. Next, the solar cells is included with a layer of
EVA polymer able to be laminated to the polymer back also, the glass front sheet. The solar
cells that are damaged is fed to the glass recycling line, then the solar cells are manually pre-
arranged and the laminated crushed off.
Currently the process simply places the solar PV modules in a shredder, reducing it to small
pieces, before separating the clean glass from the other materials, this method made is feasible
for the recycling industry to extract other important materials such as silver and silicon inside
the solar panel (Lim et al., 2017).
2.3.2 Recycling Technologies
The process of recycling gained attention globally, few PV waste recycling plants are
now established in EU countries such as Germany and France, United States of America, while
in Asia Taiwan and China. Some of the recycling plant specialize in certain cells like thin films
and others in crystalline silicon, and other manufacturer also recycle their PV waste (Bilimoria
and Defrenne, 2013). In 2007, the European PV industry established PV CYCLE association
(http://www.pvcycle.org), to promote the photovoltaic industry’s commitment by setting a
voluntary take back and recycling programme for end of life panel and by taking the
responsibility for PV modules throughout their entire life cycle (PV Cycle, 2012). Furthermore,
first solar is the first PV company to implement an unconditional prefunded collection and
recycling program for damaged and end of life solar modules (Krueger, 2010). A recent
research project has been financed by the EU “LIFE programme”, titled “Full Recovery End
of Life Photovoltaic project–FRELP”, aiming at maximising the recycling of the different
material fractions embodied into silicon PV panels (Latunussa et al., 2016). Though various
technological processes are under development for the processing and recycling of PV modules,
there are only two manufacturers are utilised their service at industrial scale one applied to c-
Si modules by Deutsche Solar and First Solar for thin-film CdTe (Berger et al. 2010). However,
both of this technologies were designed to treating together more types of PV panels not
completely automated processes have been developed yet (Granata et al., 2014).
According to Sica et al., (2018a), it is vital to have appropriate end-of-life management
of PV waste since this matter will become critical, not only to allow for recovery and
recycling(in other production processes) of resources, which are often limited, but also to
promote the proper disposal of hazardous substances, such as Cd from thin-film modules and
Pb from c-Si modules. Moreover, It should also be noted that all recovered materials cannot be
recycled 100% (Sica et al., 2018b). moreover, Held, (2009) presented LCA results of recycling
process of CdTe modules using the industry data in 2009. During the study, a recycling process
module of CdTe modules, which is based on the recycling program of First Solar, was
developed. The process included shredding and milling, film removal by hydrogen per-oxide-
based leaching, solid–liquid separation by a spiral classifier, laminate foil/glass separation by
vibrating screen and precipitation and filtration. Hence, recycling is important to the long-term
sustainability of the PV industry for managing large future waste volumes and recovering
valuable materials (glass, copper, aluminium, semiconductor materials, back contact metals,
etc.) for use in new PV modules and other new products. (Held, 2009).
22.214.171.124. First Solar
First Solar company and other Solar panel manufacturer has begun their recycling initiatives
towards its products and will continuously looking to improve its recycling program (Aman et
al., 2015). First Solar is a Unites States based company and the only major CdTe PV panel
supplier, this company has an efficient panel collection and recycling program that operating
since 2005 (Matsuno, 2013). Furthermore, First Solar is the first manufacturer that has
investing in the end of life of solar panel. The collection and recycling program dedicated to
tackle the problem of the end-of-life solar panel that the company had manufactured (Fthenakis,
2007). It is reported that the recovery rates for monocrystalline panel is up to 95% for
semiconductor and 90% for its glass, with this it can be used to manufacture a new solar panel
with the same efficiency. Cadmium and Telluride panels will be shipped to the third party
recycle company, as it is not recycled at First Solar, while any materials that cannot be recycle
will be disposed according to the requirement (Mckeown, 2014). Figure 1.10 is the First Solar’s
module recycling technology process after it collected from the end users.
Figure 2.9 Module Recycling Technology (First Solar, 2013)
First Solar states that, the company committed to provide a commercial attractive
recycling program at the end-of-life of Solar PV panel to the owner that bought the panel from
the company. First Solar recycling solution including collecting and recycle panels when the
solar PV panel damage or end-of-life has reached (Carolina et al., 2017). As mentioned by
Krueger (2010), First Solar company module collection and recycling program overview, it
designed to create sustainable energy supply including affordable modules with product life
cycle management such as collection, recycling and Financing. Firstly, collection program
designed to maximize the collection rate and minimize environmental impacts, the owner can
request for collection and recycling at any time. Secondly, recycling program to recover
valuable raw materials, maximize amount material to be recycled and minimize environmental
impact. The overall achievement of recycling up to 90% overall rate. The process producing
new glass products while the solar cells are further treatment for reused in new panel. Lastly,
Financing designed to ensure the collection and recycling program is free with no extra cost to
the end users, to provide assurance that the fund is available whenever anyone choose to recycle
the First Solar PV panel.
As for First Solar, it provide the company with affordable sources of raw materials that
is required to build new panels and the potential of minimizing the risk of release of Cd. The
contracts could also bring benefit to the owner or end users by allowing them to avoiding extra
fees at a waste disposal site. On the other hand, this contract provide peace of mind, by making
sure the commitment of both parties when referring the continuing the trends of rising solar PV
waste disposal cost and regulatory requirements (Carolina et al., 2017). In order to recycle the
solar PV modules, it should be disconnected, collected and returned per the program
requirement. The modules will be electrically and mechanically disconnected from the solar
modules and packages for the shipment as per the First Solar’s requirement. The company will
arrange transportation and recycling of the modules form the site. (Belectric, 2011).
126.96.36.199. PV Cycle
PV Cycle, is a third party reycling organisation, it designed to reycling various types of
solar panel both silicon and non-silicon based. This corporation is committed to responsible for
the solar PV recycling, this company based in Europe, this company has design and
implementing the program of recycling in Europe to collect and recycle large quantities of PV
panels. PV Cycle using two methods in recycling solar PV panels by shredding for silicon or
chemical to separate in non-silicon based panels (Mckeown, 2014). The main aims of this
company is to enable customets to dispose and recycle their broken solar panel appropriately,
therefore it creating additional value to show their interest in sustainable produce management
(PV Cycle, 2014).
PV Cycle also label at the back of every panel, when the users want to disposed the solar
panel at the end-of-life it can be sent to the manufacturer for recycling purposes. Figure 1.11(a)
and 1.11(b) represent the outcome result for PV collection Channel and treated PV
techonologies respectively (PV Cycle, 2016).
Figure 2.10(a) PV Cycle Collection Channel
(PV Cycle, 2016).
Based on the graph above, firgure 1.0 represent the collection channel which direct
pickup is the highest valur compare to assigned collection point. While, figure 1.1 represent
the treated solar cells which Silicon based is the highes among CdTe, CIGS, and Silicon-CiGS.
Figure 2.10(b) Treated PV
Technologies (PV Cycle, 2016).
PV Cycle has starter their first collective take-back and recycling scheme dedicated to
the United States PV market on 2016, this is due to increasing commitment of PV
manufacturers company to ensuring the sustainability of solar PV products. PV Cycle USA is
a non-profit organistion that will contribute to the social and environment. The primary purpose
of PV Cycle USA is to promote the sustainable life cycle management to PV market. moreover,
this initiatives will educate the manufactuer and communities about the advantageous of
sustainable waste management. In Europe, the PV waste management is legal requirement, PV
Cycle USA would like ot address this issuse regarding the abandoned waste and ensuring the
cradle-to-cradle of solar PV panel materials. (PV Cycle, 2016). By year 2016, PV Cycle
already expanding to Belgium and Japan. In Belgium PV Cycle will be an independen, member
based of compliance for the PV WEEE in that country, they offering greater administration and
waste management solutions.
The founder of PV Cycle in Belgium is Jennifer Woolwich, designed the corporation to
be the collection point for all damage or broken solar panels at any quantity (PV Cycle, 2016).
Nowadays, the rate of recycling silicon based modules has reached 96%, which mean it has
surpassed industry and WEEE standards, the remaining 4% are not recycleable because it tend
to be made from residues from the glass recover and EVA foils (Kenning, 2016). As shown in
the figure 1.12 is the total treated solar panel from 2010 – 2016, germany is the highest solar
waste produces followed by italy, Spain and other European countries.
Figure 2.11 Treated waste tonnes (PV Cycle, 2016)
188.8.131.52. Solar World
SolarWorld is one of the manufacturer that have the initiatices to developed their own
recycling program for solar panel recycling. The history of SolarWorld begin in 1995, which
distribution of Solar Modules by Asbeck Engineering, 1998, SolarWorld begin its initial
operation. In 1999, the company has launches its program become as a retailer of high quality
solar modules with goals for domestic German market (Brown, 2005). Nowadays, the
competitive global economy, SolarWorld has put an effort to ensuring the sourcing,
manufacturing, asembling and hiring in USA. The existance of this company it has employs
about 800 Americans in their country. This company has began its solar panel technology since
1975 (SolarWorld, 2015). Figure 1.13 is the SolarWorld group subsidiary that operate globally
Figure 2.12 SolarWorld group of companies (Brown, 2005).
SolarWorld together with their subsidiary SolarMaterial, focusing on the life cycle
aspects of solar modules which including its recycling phase. This program is to recycly
modules with different design and sizes especially that is broken or damage especially broken
glass, electricity faults, or defective laminate (SolarMaterial, 2009). According, to the report
by Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition (SVTC), SolarWorld are the overall environmental
leadership, the company is the first among other crystalline silicon manufacturer panel, because
of their performance on both environmental and social responsibilities (Santarris, 2010).
Furthermore, SolarWorld is a German based company that manufacture and market their solar
panel product gloabally by involving all materials from the solar value chain, feedstock to solar
modules production, trade with solar modules to the promotion and construction of solar plant.
The recycling process of SolarWorld are shown in the figure 1.14 (Larsen, 2009b)
Figure 2.13 Solar PV module recycling process (Larsen 2009b).
One of the method is used for recycling is the thermal treatment during its recycling process.
Other than physical delamination process, the thermal has benefits in possible reused for
undamaged solar cells and recovery of various component of hig purity (Tao and Yu, 2015).
In addition, SolarCycle is one of SolarWorld’s company, it provides details about the
description of the recycling process for crystalline silicon panel. the process will involving by
separating the modules by thermal treatment, separation of glass and broken cells, optical
separation, silicon purification, and exhaust air treatment. The chemical treatment is also part
of the process to ensuring the semiconductor removal (Dubey et al., 2013).
Chapter 3 Methodology
The life cycle stages for a solar panel include raw material extraction, material production,
panel manufacturing, panel operation and end of life management. The life cycle assessment
involves characterization and comparison of primary energy consumption and environmental
impacts which is air emissions on each stages of the cycle. This life cycle assessment will
analyse the energy and environment impacts associated with production and end of life stage.
The life cycle analysis of a solar photovoltaic panel is divided into three main categories start
with production, operation and end-of-life. Below are the details of each stages:
The production stage, is the most critical path in terms of environmental impacts since the
process of production will involve many different type of chemical material that could give
negative impacts to human health. Moreover, at the production stage the usage of electricity
and fuel energy also contributing to the emissions, this could rise the level of waste emission
during the production stages.
The operation stage, is during the solar producing electricity, at this point it could potentially
polluting the environment especially if the solar plant involved in fire or destruction. On the
other hand, this stages required clearing and use large areas of land for solar farms in order to
generate electricity, thus it can loss of habitat of local wildlife. Moreover, it can significantly
pollution to nearby areas. Thus it is important the solar farms need to be in proper locations to
minimize the impacts on land and also maintain the flora and fauna in the area.
C). End of Life
The final stage of the solar panel is the end of life which also known as waste, at the moment
the solar waste is still in low number, most of the solar waste will be appear in the next decades.
Then, during that time we should be prepared to manage the huge amount of waste. The solar
panel are expected to last about 25-30 years before it need to be disposed and decommissioned
or recycled. There is a concern if the solar waste end it up in the landfills, since it contains
some amount of regulated materials such as Cadmium and lead. Recycling the solar panel at
the end of life will bring environmental benefit and can further enhance the sustainability
without extract another raw material for new solar panel. Moreover, recycling could be the
best option in order to solve the waste problem in the future.
3.2 Research Process
There are several methodologies were used to conduct this research. At the initial stages, it
started with determination of the research topic, identify the problem statement and objective
of the research. While, literature review is used as supporting statement to strengthen our
finding in this research especially for data collection and analysis.
Figure 3.0 Flowchart of Research Methodology
•Determination of Input and Output data
for Gabi software
•Analyse the data from the software
•Data based on graphData analysis
•Recommendation and future research
Future research and
3.3 Life Cycle Assessment Overview
An LCA is a framework is designed to evaluate a process of a product throughout its entire
lifecycle, including raw material acquisition, production, use, final disposal and recycling.
According to ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards, the objective of LCA is to identify or
evaluate the environmental impacts associated with a product, process, or energy had been used
for materials to be process and waste that is released to the environment.
Figure 3.1 Flow of the life-cycle stages applied to the solar PV panel.
The basic flow of this Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is based on the figure 3.0, each stages
required input both material (M) and energy (En) and the output is the product and emissions
(W). There are many software or method to identify the life cycle assessment (LCA) methods,
however in this research, the LCA analysis were performed by using the Gabi software
(Education database 2017). The Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) is to define to potential
environmental impact categories, in this research, the impact assessment is referred to the ILCD
recommendations (EC – European Commission, 2011b) as implement in Gabi.
3.4 Materials Processing
The process to produces the solar photovoltaic panel can be identified into several stages
(Jungbluth, et, al. 2010). Each of the stages required inputs and outputs. Each output of the
stages will be the main input of the next stages. The production process of this solar modules
has been adapt from the figure 3.2 from the production, operation and recycling.
i. Metallurgical Silicon Production
Input Amount Output amount
Silica Sand (main material) 2.7kg MG-Silicon 1kg
Petroleum coke 0.5kg
Wood chips 1.35kg Other:
Charcoal 0.17kg Waste heat emission 71.3MJ
Graphite electrodes 0.1kg
Fuel energy 23.1MJ
Table 3.0(a) MG-Silicon production
The raw material most of the available solar modules nowadays is crystalline silicon,
which is the most second abundant material on earth after oxygen. The production of
metallurgical silicon by carbothermic reduction need huge amount of electricity. In this process
an electric furnace arc produces silicon metal from the reaction of quartz with extremely high
temperature with lower material such as coal, coke, charcoal, graphite electrodes, and etc. The
amount of reducing agent, electricity, electricity, main material silica sand, and the emission
of air and waterborne pollutions (carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide) are included in this
inventory. The table 3.1(a) represent the main parameter requires to produces the most
important material which is silicon alloy, condensed silica fume and waste emission (Jungbluth,
et, al. 2010).
ii. MG-Silicon purification
Input amount Output amount
MG-Silicon (main material) 1kg Silicon electronic grade 0.676kg
hydrocloridic acid 2kg Silicon electronic grade, off grade 0.0844kg
water 43.5kg silicon tetrachloride 1.2kg
sodium hydroxide 0.44kg
hydroxgen 0.06kg other:
electricity 410.4kg Waste heat emission 274MJ
Table 3.0(b) MG-Silicon purification
During this stages the silicon produced by the carbothermal reduction that commonly
used in most semiconductor materials. These type of method requires a purification process to
lower down the impurity levels to 0.0001-0.01 parts per million by weight) (Jungbluth, et, al.
2010). The main input will be MG-Silicon, while other material including hydrochloric acid,
water, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen, electricity and heat energy. The purified silicon can be
classified into different Si content purity in mass (Tellenbach, 2010):
i. Metallurgical Grade Silicon (MG-Si) 98-99%
ii. Solar Grade Silicon (SoG-Si) 99.9999 – 99.999999 %
iii. Electronic Grade Silicon (EG-Si) 99.9999999%
The SoG-Silicon and EG-Silicon usually known as polysilicon due to its polycrystalline
form, are the foundation of the production of crystalline silicon wafer, for production of
semiconductor or solar photovoltaic panel applications (Vellini et al., 2017). The output from
this process which are Silicon electronic grade, Silicon electronic grade, off grade, and Silicon
tetrachloride. The waste heat emission also produced at this stages. Table 3.1(b) represent the
amount are used for input and output.
iii. MG-Silicon purification (Modified Siemens process)
Input amount Output amount
MG-Silicon (main material) 1.13kg Silicon solar grade 1kg
hydrochloric acid 1.6kg
sodium hydroxide 0.35 other:
hydrogen 0.05kg Waste heat emission 396MJ
Table 3.0(c) MG-Silicon purification
At this stages, MG-Silicon is converted to electronic silicon (EG-Silicon) due to the
Siemens process through trischlorosilane reaction. This process requires less amount of energy
compare to the standard Siemens process, this is due to the relaxed silicon purity that required
for photovoltaic applications. The differences with the standard Siemens process is the
deposition step and the crushing and etching process (Jungbluth, et, al. 2010). Nowadays, the
silicon is purified by converting it to a silicon compound, making it easier to purified, and it
converting the silicon material back into pure Silicon.
The trichlorosilane is the silicon compound that usually used as intermediate. During the
Siemens process, high-purity silicon rods are exposed to trichlorosilane with temperature
1150 °C, the trichlorosilane gas decomposes and deposits extra silicon onto the rods, enlarging
them with chemical reactions. Silicon that produced through this process is known as
polycrystalline silicon, in which it typically has the impurity level of 1 part per billion or less
(Kilani, 2016). The table 3.1(c) represent main material in this process is MG-Silicon, while
the other material including hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen, and electrical and
thermal heat. The main output is Silicon solar grade, also it releasing waste heat emission to
iv. Multi-Si casting production
Input amount Output amount
Silicon production (main material) 1.14kg silicon multi-Si caste 1kg
ceramic tiles 0.34kg
argon 0.27kg other:
nitrogen 0.05kg Waste heat emission 69.5MJ
Table 3.0(d) Multi-Si casted production
At this stages, the casting production is a combination of various method. The ingot
casting process are begin at this phase. The ingot casting are taken places, after the silicon is
produced applying the cast method, the silicon will be molten in the ceramic crucibles. The
silicon will be melted at very high temperature for this stage is around 1400°C through
induction of heating and directly cast into a mold and allowed to become a solid ingot. A small
quantity of boron is mixed into the material during the melting process, to get positive
characteristics to make the silicon p-type.
The common size of ingot for multi-crystalline silicon is 50cm x 30cm x 30cm. then, a
smaller blocks for next casting production is prepare for ingot casting. Mostly, 70% of the poly-
crystalline silicon is manufactured into wafers, while the remaining will be lost in the sawing
process. The ingot is curt into wafers usually using diamond saw, the waste that produced
during the cutting process will be recycled into polysilicon (“Photovoltaics Manufacturing,
Polysilicon | Solar Power,” n.d.).
The table 3.1(d) shows, the main material in this process is Silicon production, the other
material including ceramic tiles, argon, nitrogen, and electricity to run the process. The main
output in this process is silicon multi-casted, this process also release waste heat emission to
v. Wafer production
Input amount Output amount
Multi-Si casted 1.14kg wafer 1m^2
silicon carbide 0.49kg
softened water 65kg other:
steel 1.48kg Waste heat emission 28.8MJ
wire drawing 1.49kg
dipropylene glycol monomethyl ether 0.3kg
alkylbenzene sulfonate 0.24kg
fuel energy 4MJ
Table 3.0(e) Input and output of wafer production
This stages will begin with silicon ingot is cut into thin sheets using wire or band saw
into columns then, placed in a multi wire saw machine that will sliced the ingot into wafers.
After that, the wafer will be polished until it become very smooth and the thickness is met. The
wafers then will be cleaned using chemical substances such as KOH and NaOH, hydrochloric
acid and etc. (Vellini et al., 2017).
During the wafer processing, the etching process is used as soon as the photolithography
process take place, to etch the unnecessary material to the wafer. Both dry and wet etching will
be used. Dry etching, will be using gas instead of chemical materials. Dry etch are able produce
critical geometrics that very tiny in size. The wet etching, wafers to be dissolved in the highly
concentrated pool of acid (Williams, 1982).
The table 3.1(e) shows the main parameter which is Multi-Si casted, the other material
including silicon carbide, softened water, steel, wire drawing, dipropylene glycol monomethyl
ether, alkylbenze sulfonate, polystyrene, electricity and fuel energy. The main output in this
process is wafer, at the same time it releasing waste heat emission as well.
vi. Cell production
Input amount Output amount
wafer 1.06 m3 cell 1 m2
water 1 m3
liquid nitrogen 1.85 kg other:
sodium hydroxide 0.16 kg Waste heat emission 109MJ
liquid oxygen 0.1 kg
electricity 108.0 MJ
fuel energy 5.9 MJ
Table 3.0(f) Input and output of cell production
There are various step to turn the wafer into solar modules cell (Sica et al., 2018a). The
first step is Etching, wafers will be clean using chemical baths to get rid of the surface
microscopic damage and sawn parts. Second step, Doping, in order to create a P-N junction the
phosphorous atoms are used in this step. Then the wafers gently through an oven, to spreads
orthophosphoric acid onto the materials. Next, screen printing and coating, anti-reflective
coating (TiO2) will be applied, the anterior and posterior electrical contacts are created through
screen printing or electrodeposition. Lastly, the cell will be checked by simulation of standard
sun exposure radiations to classify its groping with the other cells that have similar electrical
This steps are vital to ensure each of the solar cells in the right categories before it
assemble into complete solar modules. The table 3.1(f) represent the materials involved in the
production of solar cells. The main materials is wafer, the other materials which are water,
liquid nitrogen, sodium hydroxide, liquid oxygen, electricity, and fuel energy. The output will
be the solar cells, the waste heat emission is also produced at this stage.
vii. Panel production
Input Amount Output amount
cell 0.932m2 Panel 1m2
tempering flat glass 10.1kg
solar glass, low iron 10.1kg other:
aluminium alloy 2.63kg Waste heat emission 17MJ
ethylvinylacetate foil 1kg
corrugated board 1.1kg
fuel energy 5.4MJ
Table 3.0(g) Panel production
The production of the solar modules is made by various layers of materials in the form
of sandwich. The topmost layer is the glass (low iron content) and the topside of the panel is
the aluminium frame that hold the solar modules together, the cells are usually connected in
string using copper connection embedded together with the ethylvinylacetate (EVA). The back
cover using polymer sheet.
The panel is joint with pressure and heat, while the side of the panel is purified and the
joint are insulated to protect it. Then, the connection box is installed, the panel get additional
aluminium frame. The final steps, the panel and laminate are tested and packed, the process
data include materials and energy consumption both electricity and fuel energy, also this
process producing waste heat emission.
The table 3.1(g) shown the main input of the process is the solar cells, flat glass, solar
glass (low iron), aluminium alloy, ethylvinylacetate foil, corrugated board, and energy
consumption is required for both electricity and fuel energy. The output of this process will be
the panel, and at same way in this process the waste heat emission is released.
viii. Recycling process
Input Amount Output amount
Panel 1m2 main output 0.899m2
hydrogen fluoride 0.0678kg
acetic acid 5.92kg other:
Nitric acid 13.1kg emission ?
potassium hydroxide 0.0522kg
Table 3.0(h) Recycling process
During this stage, the end of life solar modules will be analysed for recycling process purposed.
There are two process are involved in this stage which are thermal and chemical process.
i. Thermal process, which involved manually disassembly the modules in a fast, economical
and simple way. The EVA cells will be separated in this method. In order to separate the
silicon PV cells from the solar modules, the modules will be placed in a SiO2 bed before
it will be heat it up, to increase the temperature (Radziemska et al., 2010).
ii. The second stage will involve chemical process, there is a potential to recover the silicon
(powdered silicon) and sheets.
Table 3.1(h) represent the main parameter in this process are used solar panel for 1m2, the other
material are required mostly used chemical treatment material such hydrogen fluoride, acetic
acid, nitric acid, potassium hydroxide, water, and electricity. the main output will be the
leftover material that can be recycled up to 90% of its mass, the remaining of the balance is
assume to be disposed in landfill (Jungbluth, et, al. 2010).
Chapter 4 Result and Discussion
In this section, the information regarding the regulation, policy are collected based from
current policy, such as European Union has implemented the Waste Electrical and Electronic
Equipment (WEEE) Directive, Some of the leading organisation is from Europe which is PV
Cycle and First Solar. This is due to most other countries are still catching up regarding their
solar PV waste management at the end of their life. In order to develop the end of life
management for solar modules, it is important to have strong foundation to ensure it can be
easily manageable by any organisations or consumer. At the moment only European Union are
the only place that has set a rules and policies for the end of life management of solar modules
(Krishnamurthy, 2017). The solar PV modules will generally last up to 30 years for its lifetime,
then it will become waste, the classification of the end of life solar PV will fall classify as an
The potential environmental impacts results are calculated by Gabi software, and will be
discussed in this chapter. The LCA process of Silicon extraction begin in the early stages of
the process which manufacturing until the recycling stages. The potential environmental are
taken such as Global warming potential (GWP), Acidification potential (AP), Oxidation
Depletion potential (ODP), Eutrophication potential (EP), and Photochemical ozone creation
4.2. Current policies, practices and management of solar photovoltaic modules life at
the end of its life.
As the usage of solar PV panel are increasingly demanding, so does the waste that will appear
after end-of-life of solar panel. Several countries have adopted liability schemes in which
manufacturer is required to be responsible for their products to ensure the disposing and
decommissioning and any toxic materials from discarded products (Klugmann-Radziemska et
al., 2010). The need of recycling is highly important and should be focus among us. As reported
by Pearce and McDonald (2010), the environmental policy, manufacturers and producers are
expected to take the responsibility of the life cycle impacts of their products, thus it should be
important to have research and development of each of the products that is manufactured to
ensure that each of the products can be recycle as convenient as possible.
Moreover, when dealing with the end-of-life solar PV panels, the environmental
regulations will be able to identify the cost and complexity of the solar PV panels. To illustrate,
if the materials classified as hazardous materials, it may require special handling to ensure
proper handling, thus the cost to decommission the solar PV panel may increase (Obecny,
In United Stated the action to recycling the solar PV panels and the recycling method may be
different by each manufacturer. However, according to the non-profit Silicon Valley Toxic
Coalition (SVTC), it generally classified under regulations for waste disposal and hazardous
waste (Krishnamurthy, 2017). The SVTC is currently conducting California Legislature to
enact the regulation for PV manufacturer in the industry, which SVTC had provided are
scorecard survey in the industry, the reason for this scorecard is a resource for consumers,
institutional purchasers, investors, installers, and to consumer who want to buy solar PV
modules from any responsible manufacturers. The Scorecard shows how the companies will
perform on SVTC’s sustainability and social justice benchmarks to make sure that the solar PV
modules manufacturers will ensure the safety of the workers, communities and the environment.
(Coyle, 2011). The EPA guidelines is been implemented in Unites Stated as the federal
regulations. Each states have to obey the EPA regulations, though there is not specific law
regarding procedures of recycling or collection after end-of-life solar panels. Although, some
solar PV manufacturers in United States has taken an initiatives to recycle and manage the end
of life Solar PV but they still lack behind the European (Coyle, 2011). The disposal of solar
panels is based on the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). While, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are given the authority to control hazardous waste
from cradle-to-grave (Mckeown, 2014).
According to the Kyoto Protocol and the European Union WEEE Directives (WEEE,
2012b) and RoHS (WEEE, 2011) the usage of hazardous materials in electrical or electronic
devices need to reduces to zero level, at the same time the directive must not prevent the
development of renewable energy technologies in which does not give negative impact
especially on health and environment (Obecny, 2013). Overall, in United States the Federal
and state hazardous waste laws provide mediocre, due to safeguards to prevent environmental
impacts from PV waste. Due regulated narrow definitions of hazardous waste, most panels are
not regulated under the laws (Coyle, 2011).
4.2.1 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) regulates the
treatment of electrical and electronic waste at the end of their life time. This directive has been
amended two times in 2008 and 2012, that resulting of this directive was to include solar
photovoltaic (PV) panels into the directive in the latest version on 2012. The WEEE is the
foundation of rules and obligation for collecting and recycling solar panels in European Union,
this also include collecting minimum amount of solar PV and recovery target. However, the
WEEE directive does not cover disposal of solar thermal modules (WEEE, 2012). The main
goal of WEEE directive is to ensure proper waste management of electronic and electrical
equipment (e-waste) and reduce its volume through the collection, re-use, recycling and
recovery at the end of their life. Based on WEEE directive, the producers of the products it will
require to ensure the take-back and recycling within the countries of the European-Union (EU).
Moreover, the end consumer will not require to pay additional cost for disposal (WEEE, 2012).
The (WEEE) Directive has taken initiative to drive the responsibility of end-of-life solar
PV panel (Directive 2012/19/UE of the European Parliament and the Council). As reported in
this guideline the end of life of solar PV panel should be classified under electric and electronic
equipment waste (WEEE) and specific goals of collecting, recovered and recycling must be
reached within few years, while it stated that, the minimum collecting rate as average weight
of solar PV panel is 45% of overall devices by 2016 and 65% later, while the minimum target
for is counted in mass recovery is 75% and recycling 65% by 2015 (Granata et al., 2014). The
EU policy basically give priority of recovery and recycling of the solar PV materials rather
than disposed on landfills, as mentioned by the Directive set the target from 2012 to 2018 65%
– 80% for recycling and 75% – 85% for recovery (Vellini et al., 2017).
4.2.2 Solar Cells Recycling
There are several researchers have summarized the process of separating the materials of
a crystalline panel for re-use and recycling, while a combination of process could apparently
improving the recovery yields, more openly data is needed, such recycling and recovery mostly
at pilot scale and not yet widely available (Latunussa et al., 2016). Mostly the recovery methods
must still put in place for silicon, silver and other precious materials. Various method have
been tested to recover silicon from crystalline PV panels, mostly using chemical and thermal
processes or using both process altogether, the process using manual and mechanical crushing
and shredding (Latunussa et al., 2016). Chemical treatment is needed for silicon before
recycling in polysilicon production, remelting and chemical treatment is essential for Ag (in
multi-Si PV cells) and Al before it can be used as substitutes with other raw materials in the
module assembling the process (Huang et al. 2017).
In addition, mechanical treatment such as water blasting and chemical process followed
by precipitation, electroplating or ion exchange, were suitable for the recycling of cadmium
telluride (CdTe) PV panels (Sasala, et al. 1996). Furthermore, Deutshe Solar and PV cycle
appear to provide recycling for crystalline PV panels at the commercial scale, however this
process still resulting in some disposal (Kim and Jeong, 2016). According to Ferrer et al.,
(2011), have examined the possibility of silicon solar cells recycling by insulating them into
cement-based systems. Some researcher have conducted research on using chemical studies
about silicon recovery from PV panels were also carried out by using acid or alkaline agents
as well as organic solvents for EVA degradation and/or dissolution (Granata et al., 2014).
Hence, full recovery of materials from crystalline PV panels are remains a challenge to be
solved. Thus it is important to rethink of how to design solar PV panel to avoid difficulty and
reduce energy consumption in the later separation of panel materials. Cradle to cradle will be
helpful to share the future of solar PV panel (Contreras-Lisperguer et al., 2017).
4.2. Photovoltaic Panel Waste Management
Beyond the rules and policy regulations that has been implemented, another approached
to manage the waste at the end of their life. The figure 4.1 represent the process of flow diagram
of the life cycle stages for solar PV panels and resulting opportunities for reducing, reusing or
Figure 4.0 Process flow diagram of Solar panel (Fthenakis, 2000).
There are three main stakeholders are responsible for the end of life solar panel (Weckend et
al., 2016). Firstly, the end of life management it must become the responsibility of the
producers. Which means the produces will be finance the entire cost for the environmental
impact of their products entire life cycle. This methods will be able to used funds the proper
collection, treatment, recycling and disposal system. Secondly, the consumer are generates the
waste solar modules is responsible for the end of life management, this include the proper
treatment and disposal of the panel. in this part, the producers are not involved, which means
the consumers will have less motivation to recycle or dispose the waste solar modules to the
collection point. Thirdly, the end of life of solar modules management is supported by society,
government organisation to control and manage the operations and financed by taxation, this
will ensure the creating of revenue to run the operation.
4.3 Environmental impacts associated with the solar photovoltaic modules.
This part will focuses on various potential environmental impact categories that impacted
during the life cycle of crystalline silicon panel. The result are obtained based on the Gabi
software. The types of impacts were identified for this life cycle study including Global
warming potential (GWP), Acidification potential (AP), Ozone depletion potential (ODP),
Eutrophication potential (EP), and Photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP).
4.3.1 Global Warming Potential (GWP)
Figure 4.1 Global warming potential
The potential global warming or also known as greenhouse gasses is normally quantified
as the substance in reflection of having the same effect as CO2 reflection of heat radiation. The
GWP of these greenhouse gasses are calculated in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-Eq) (Anex
and Lifset, 2014). The highest contributor process is 40.8%, follow with cell production, Panel
production, Recycling process each comprises 12%. The wafer production is 11.6%, Multi-Si
casted production 7.8%, MG-Silicon purification is 3.3%, and lastly MG-Silicon production is
0.5%. Evidently, the Siemens process is the highest contributor and the lowest percentage
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
during the production process. Basically the GWP of a gas depends on various reasons such
as the absorption of infrared radiation, the spectral location of its absorbing wavelengths, and
the lifetime of the atmospheric of the gas (Winterbach, 2011).
4.3.2 Acidification Potential (AP)
Figure 4.2 Acidification potential
The acidification potential can be described as the ability of some substances to produce and
releasing H+-ions. The AP of soils and waters is a natural process that will usually happened
through the transformation of air pollutants into acids. This may leads to reducing the pH-
values of rainwater and fog which range from 5.6 to 4 and lower than that. The result are much
similar in GWP, the highest contributor is MG-Silicon purification (Siemens process) which is
40.5%. The cell production, panel production, and recycling process is altogether 12.0%, wafer
production is 11.5%, Multi-Si casted 7.7%, MG-Silicon purification 3.5%. The lowest
percentage is MG-Silicon production is 0.9%.
Acidification Potential (AP)
4.3.3 Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
Figure 4.3 Ozone depletion potential
The Ozone depletion refers to the phenomenon of decreasing ozone density through the
thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer (15–30 km altitude) as a result of anthropogenic
pollutants. This leads to increased UV exposure of human skin, which implies a potential rise
in incidence of melanoma. The standard substance for ODP is CFCs (Kim and Tae, 2016). The
MG-Silicon purification (Siemens process) is the highest share which is 37.7%, then it follows
with cell production, panel production, recycling process each with 11.2%. Thirdly, wafer
production is 11.3%, and MG-Silicon purification is 3.6% and the lowest share is MG-Silicon
production, which the early stages of the process.
Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
4.3.4 Eutrophication Potential (EP)
Figure 4.4 Eutrophication Potential (EP)
The potential impact of eutrophication can be categorised into two aquatic and terrestrial
eutrophication. The aquatic eutrophication can fasten the algae grow in water which prevents
the sunlight from reaching the surface area, thus is resulting lower photosynthesis which cause
less oxygen production. The EP is calculated in phosphate equivalents (PO4-Eq). As shown
from the figure 4.3, the MG-Silicon purification (Siemens process) is the highest contributor
which is 37.7%, then it follows with the cell production, panel production, recycling process
consists of 11.2% each of this activities. The wafer production is 10.7%, MG-Silicon
production is 7.6%, Multi-Si casted is 7.2%, and the lowest is MG-Silicon purification is 3.1%.
Eutrophication Potential (EP)
4.3.5 Photochemical Ozone Creation (POCP)
Figure 4.5 Photochemical ozone creation
Photochemical oxidant creation refers to the reaction of airborne anthropogenic
pollutants with sunlight that produces chemical products such as ozone (O3), leading to
increase in ground level ozone concentration causing smog of chemical compounds adversely
affecting ecosystems and hazardous to human health and crop growth. Ethylene is used as the
standard substance for POCP (Kim and Tae, 2016). The highest percentage is MG-Silicon
purification 40.8%, then follow with cell production, panel production, recycling process each
consists of 11.7% as the second highest. Thirdly, wafer production contributing 11.3%. Next,
Multi-Si casted production is 7.7%, MG-Silicon purification is 3.6% and lastly the lowest
contributor is MG-Silicon production is 1.5%.
Photochemical Ozone creation Potential (POCP)
Chapter 5 Conclusion
The rules and regulation associated with end of life solar PV modules are still new to
many countries. However, in Europe they have the policy on how to manage the end of life
solar PV modules. Not many countries have implemented specific rules and regulation
associated with end of life management. At the moment, the European Union is the leading in
end of life management of solar PV modules, they took the initiatives to implement the WEEE
Directive. While, in United States they still catching up regarding the rules, regulation and
policies associated with end of life management. However, company such as PV cycle, First
Solar, and Deutsche Solar has established their own end of life management by recycling the
solar PV modules at the end of its life. Recycling program have been implemented in small
scale, this is due to most of the waste are from broken solar modules, the accumulated waste
of solar panel will come in the near future, by having solid recycling infrastructure and the right
policies will ensure the proper management of solar modules at the end of solar modules. The
benefits of recycling will ensure the extraction of raw materials such as Silicon can be reduced
other than that it can also reduce the greenhouse emission, most of the solar PV component can
be recycle up to 90% of their weight.
In this paper the potential environmental impact has been assessed with the entire life
cycle of crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic panel using Gabi software association with the
ISO 14044 and 14040 standards. This LCA have eight process that being from manufacturing,
operation, and end of life. Based on the result each of the process, it contributes to the
environmental impacts. The MG-Silicon purification (Siemens process) carried the most of the
environmental impacts during the life cycle, this causes from the various chemical, pressurized
heat, and waste heat emission, during the processing of the output which Silicon solar grade.
5.2 Recommendation for future Research
There are various things that be done in the future to improve the current situation to
ensure the benefit of human and environmental. It is important to continues this type of research,
this is due to this matter are still new and not so many people aware the negative impact on
solar PV to human and environmental if it’s not handle properly. Some of the things that can
be done in the future such as:
1. Rules, Regulation, and Policy: as I mentioned in in the Chapter 4, the current policy are
mainly implemented in developed country only especially in Europe. While the developing
country need to take advantage to adapt that kind of policy so that the solar PV waste
management can be done easily with the proper framework after the end of life of solar panel.
2. Solar PV Recycling: as for now there are only the tier-1 manufacturing company that have
the recycling program. However the recycling only reached up to 90% of the solar panel weight.
Research could be done more on this type of subject so that the solar panel can be recycled up
to 100%, thus it will not just reducing the usage of raw materials but also reducing the amount
of gas emission on earth.
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