Recycling photovoltaic panels, a technology unique in France

Fossil energy electricity production is not a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution. Consequently renewable resources have an increasingly important place on the market and are seen as responsible alternatives for the future. Among these are photovoltaic panels which according to the IEA now represent about 2% of global electricity consumption. Demand is growing and, according to the same source, they could lead electricity production by 2050.


As the global photovoltaic market grows, so too does the volume of end-of-life panels. At the end of 2016, global photovoltaic waste was between 43,500 and 250,000 tonnes, which represents between 0.1% and 0.6% of the cumulative mass of all installed panels. Given their average lifespan of 30 years, large quantities of waste are expected as early as 2030. According to the IEA, in 2050, they are therefore likely to represent between 5.5 and 6 million tonnes per year, almost as much as the new capacity installed (6.7 million tonnes). This exponential growth in end-of-life equipment will be accompanied by major pollution risks, including lead and cadmium, which are among the components in the panels.

 

In March 2017, with PV CYCLE France, Veolia launched the first French unit to treat and recover "crystalline silicon" photovoltaic panels (90% of the market) in Rousset in the Bouches-du-Rhône region. Equipped with a technology unique in France, it recovered 1,800 tonnes of materials in 2018 and plans to produce up to 4,000 tonnes in 2021.  Secondary raw materials are then re-injected into various sectors in line with circular economy principles. Glass (between 65 and 75%) will be reused in the glass sector, the aluminium frame in refineries, plastic (10%) will be recovered as fuel for cement works and silicon will find a new life in the precious metals sectors. As for cables and connectors, they will be crushed and marketed as copper shot. Veolia and PV CYCLE France thus comply with the European directive on WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which requires any importer or manufacturer of photovoltaic panels to collect and treat them at the end of life.


Who are our customers? 

Photovoltaic panel manufacturers, industry, local authorities.


Veolia solution

Veolia, accompanied by PV CYCLE, offers a unique solution and a complete service for recycling "crystalline silicon" type photovoltaic panels:

  • Collection of photovoltaic panels by PV CYCLE, then delivery to the site
  • Weighing each panel and identification 
  • Removal of the aluminium frame along with the connection box and connection cables 
  • ​​​​​​​Cutting the panel into tablets
  • Crushing, sifting and use of an eddy current separator to extract the metal parts
  • ​​​​​​​Recovery of the different materials for reuse in various industrial sectors

With the Veolia solution, the treatment of one photovoltaic panel takes between 1 minute and 1 minute 30 seconds.

Benefits for our customers

A new and complete expertise

Cost optimization

Smaller environmental footprint