Working at the world’s first take-back and WEEE compliance scheme for photovoltaic modules, PV CYCLE staffs are often confronted with the question of why pay for something that has not yet occurred.
While about 9 million tonnes of photovoltaic – or PV – modules had been installed in Europe by the end of 2015, only an estimated 0.2% have become waste today. PV CYCLE – as the largest service provider in the market – has collected and treated the vast majority of these waste modules, coming from transport or installation damage as well as from severe weather conditions or warranty cases. More than 99% of today’s sold modules continue perfectly to generate green solar energy as expected.
Yet, European authorities require that importers and manufacturers based in their countries foresee financial provisions for waste management based on the entire business volume that they sell into the market. Financing obligations can go from financial guarantees and trusts to clearing houses or waste fees at the time of sales. Some countries go as far as to combine trusts with reductions on feed-in-tariffs to ensure that the financing of collection, transport, treatment, recycling and disposal of end-of-life PV modules is truly guaranteed at any time.
A high-volume market, PV modules are sold and installed in millions to contribute to a fast transition from traditional electricity production to renewables. With a technical lifetime of 20 and more years, the time span of product use and waste generation differs significantly from most other products falling under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive however. Future waste management and long-term financing are hence crucial aspects of PV waste management today.