The FRELP project (Full Recovery End of Life Photovoltaic) was part of the European “LIFE” programme to develop techniques to recover waste crystalline-silicon PV solar panels, recovering glass, aluminium, silicon, copper and silver, recovering 908 kg out of each 1000 kg load. This was handled by PC Cycle in Italy in 2016.
Based on their findings, the authors recommend research and development to reduce recycling costs and environmental impacts, while maximizing material recovery. They suggest focusing on high-value silicon versus intact silicon wafers. This will need research and development into silicon purification processes.
“We need research and development because the accumulation of waste will sneak up on us," said Silverman. "Much like the exponential growth of PV installations, it will seem to move slowly and then rapidly accelerate. By the time there’s enough waste to open a PV-dedicated facility, we need to have already studied the proper process."