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SuperSolar webinar: Photovoltaics in the Circular Economy

SuperSolar webinar: Photovoltaics in the Circular Economy

Written by Matthew Royle, Research Assistant

After responding to the “Technological innovations and climate change: onshore solar energy” inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK Parliament, a collaborative effort from CircularChem team, members at the University of Sheffield and Newcastle University were invited to present at the Supergen SuperSolar event titled ‘Photovoltaics in the Circular Economy’ on 17th June 2023.

The webinar focused on current and future Photovoltaics (PV) recycling strategies (from established silicon panels to next generation PVs) with insights from academia and industry, and was chaired by Dr Lewis Jones from Loughborough University. The panel discussed the feasibility for current recycling methods of established technologies in a circular economy context, and what role legislation can play to encourage using end-of-life PV technology in a more circular manner. Whilst recycling the major components in traditional PV panels is relatively straight forward, the recovery and safe treatment of the rare critical minerals in these panels is difficult to achieve.

Colleague Dr Susana Iglesias Porras and I gave a perspective on solar implementation in the UK and the role emerging technologies can play in a circular economy, by highlighting an example case study on using recycled carbon black in printable electronic and Photovoltaic devices.

Figure 1: Demonstration of a PV portable measuring system made at Newcastle University.

Considering the discussions from the webinar, there is a parallel progression of increased activity in recycling established PV and emergence of enabling PV devices inherently designed to be incorporated into a circular economy. It is clear there is space for multiple technologies and numerous applications in which solar power can be a major contributor to the renewable energy mix and a circular economy in the UK.

If you would like to catch up with the webinar, it is now available to watch online here.