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Climate Tech

Victoria has $10 million to deal with one of the next decade’s biggest recycling problems: solar panels

- October 3, 2022 2 MIN READ
solar panels
Photo: AdobeStock.
A $10 million program to tackle recycling solar panels has been launched in Victoria.

Breakthrough Victoria,  a company managing a $2 billion fund set up by the Victorian government to make the state a global leader in innovation, has launched the $10 million Solar Waste Challenge, to invest in solar waste reduction solutions.

More than 187,000 tonnes of solar panels expected to enter Victoria’s waste stream by 2035. Minister for solar homes Lily D’Ambrosio said there are currently limited options available for managing and recycling solar panel waste.

“Our Solar Waste Challenge is an example of how we are working with industry and innovators in our nation-leading clean energy transition, while proactively addressing potential environmental impacts,” she said.

Startup innovators can apply to Breakthrough Victoria for investment funding for the development of new or improved tech to recycle or reuse solar panels.

The panels have an average lifespan of 15 to 25 years before they need replacing due to technological advances, damage or lowered efficiency. Australia has more than three million rooftop solar installations nationally and the turnover is expected to begin ramping up over the next few years, potentially creating a massive waste problem.

Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said they’re looking for novel, commercial and scalable solutions that create high-value products from end-of-life panels to reduce landfill, including ways to maximise harvesting of materials to create new, high value products.

Valuable components such as silicon and silver can be potentially harvested and repurposed for other industry applications.

“The Breakthrough Victoria Challenge encourages solar and recycling experts across the spectrum of science, technology and infrastructure to look for creative solutions to unlock value in solar panel disposal and recycling,” he said.

“End-of-life solar panels embody the circular economy challenge the industry faces, but also the opportunity of turning a waste stream into a commercial product and creating a strong market for the solar panel recycling industry. This is a first step in helping accelerate and scale up a commercially viable system of solar panel recycling in Victoria.”

Details on the Solar Waste Challenge are here,

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