PV Industries Circular Solar Trial

Lead Organisation

PV Industries

Case Study Background

There is mounting concern about solar panel waste in New South Wales, with research indicating that a significant wave of solar panels would reach the end of their lifespan by 2035. PV Industries recognized the urgency of implementing sustainable solutions and in early 2021 began the Circular Solar Trial in collaboration with key partners, including the City of Newcastle, the Hunter Joint Organisation, and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).  Through collaboration and an industry-led approach PV Industries have developed circular solutions for solar panels.

The Vision

PV Industries’ project had several key aims:

  • “Develop an innovative solar panel recycling process for use within NSW by PV industries
  • Establish a metro and regional collection and logistics network in partnership with local government and Greentech Sydney
  • Activate end-markets for recovered solar panel glass in partnership with University of New South Wales’ School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and John Holland
  • Enable future opportunities for solar panel reuse, in partnership with UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering
  • Improved procedures for safe handling and transport of lithium-ion batteries, in partnership with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • Assessment of the solar industry to identify solar panel recycling market challenges and opportunities, in partnerships with the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, Circular Australia, and Spark Renewables.”


Benefits and Results

PV Industries’ Circular solar trial exemplified circular economy principles, contributing to sustainable resource management within the renewable energy sector. PV Industries developed and successfully implemented a method for analysing solar panels in-situ, using an algorithm that categorises solar panels for continued use or replacement. This process ensures that only faulty solar panels are replaced, reducing the number of panels needing to be recycled. Using specially designed machinery PV Industries can recover 90% of materials from faulty solar panels including valuable materials like copper, silver, and silicon. Further, the materials obtained from recycling the faulty solar panels were processed for use in new applications, extending their lifecycle and reducing the demand for new resources. By activating end-markets and exploring reuse possibilities, PV Industries stimulated economic growth while prioritising environmental sustainability.