Italian startup Tialpi Srl has proposed a new recycling solution for solar cells that claims to recycle 85% of solar panels.
Vera Ramon, window of Tialpi Srl, commented that the new technology developed by the research team is able to recycle aluminum frames, copper wires, and glasses of solar panels, and has obtained a patent right now. The research team is currently unfolding the second phase at the factory in the Province of Biella that is the development of a separation technology between the backplane and cells. Patent for the second phase is currently under application.
The first phase now consists of standardized processes and an automated factory. The robotic arm first moves solar panels from the warehouse of 25 discarded panels, and then severs the wires connected at the back of the discarded modules, before four automatic cutters are used to shave off the edges of the aluminum frames. Glasses are then transported to the screening division, and opaque glass particles are separated using an optical technology after leaving behind 2-10mm glasses. High quality glasses are retained for further uses.
The last step is to extract copper up to 99% purity and recycle plastic. Machine in the factory can deliver cables at a speed of 150kg/hour. Tialpi Srl commented that the overall recycling process is relatively eco-friendly, and does not require carbon emission nor water, where recycled aluminum can be used in various industries such as automobile and architecture, while good-quality glasses can be used for vessels or tablets.
Developing personnel at Tialpi Srl pointed out that the recycling process consumes a low level of energy, where each module merely requires 1kW of energy, and only necessitates two individual staffs. The project has a payback period of roughly two years.
Various sectors are starting to realize the issue of decommissioning and recycling solar panels after certain years in the midst of rising solar installations over recent years, and are hoping to resolve the bottleneck that modules can only be fragmented and downgraded.
For instance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has also joined hands with ITRI, URE, and San Fang on developing solar modules that are easy to disassemble, which are able to fully recycle and reuse materials such as silicon and glass, and have been awarded the IEC from TÜV Rheinland. The research team estimates the recycling of decommissioned solar panels to significantly increase from NT$600 million/GW to NT$2.4 billion/GW.
(Cover photo source: Tialpi)