General Studies Paper 3
Context: Recently, A report prepared by the National Solar Energy Federation of India predicted that India could generate over 34,600 tonnes of cumulative solar waste in India by 2030.
- India has the world’s fourth highest solar PV deployment. The installed solar capacity was nearly 62GW in November 2022. .This contributes to a large amount of solar PV waste.
- India’s solar PV installations are dominated by crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology. A typical PV panel is made of c-Si modules (93%) and cadmium telluride thin-film modules (7%) Both the technologies have a recovery rate of 85-90 per cent.
- The market value of raw materials recovered from solar panels could reach $450 million by 2030,according to a projection by the International Renewable Energy Agency. This amount of raw materials is approximately the same as that required to build 60 million new solar panels or to generate 18 GW of electricity.
India’s current PV recycling policy
- India had recently included PV waste under E waste management rules.This places PV modules under the Extended Producer Responsibility framework.
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumption stage in a product’s life cycle.
- According to a 2021 report, approximately50% of the total materials in A PV module can be recovered but in India only about 20% of the PV waste is recovered and the rest is treated informally. As a result, the waste often accumulates at landfills,which pollute the surroundings.
- Incinerating the waste also releases sulphur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen cyanide into the atmosphere.
Issues with Policy
- Clubbing PV waste with other e-waste could lead to confusion as characteristics of solar panel materials are different from other E wastes.
- PV cells have Monocrystalline or multi-crystalline silicon. Recovering this silicon needs different methods than those used for e waste ,where the main priority is recovery of metals.
- Recycling PV waste is not economical at this stage. According to the National Renewable Energy Recycling a solar panel costs between $20 and $30, Laboratory, while sending it to a landfill costs $1-2.
- Lack of Incentives from the government for recycling is another challenge.
- India should formulate and implement provisions specific to PVwaste treatment within the ambit of the e-waste guidelines.
- A Central regulatory body should be set up to protect against financial losses incurred in waste collection and treatment.
- An awareness campaign to drive home the hazardous qualities of PV materials.
- India needs to pay more attention to domestic R&D efforts since local solar PV-panel manufacturing capacity is limited.