Inspenet, December 2, 2023.
With the start of the RENEW project, the Baden-Württemberg Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Center (ZSW) and various collaborators are investigating the possibility of repairing and reusing photovoltaic (PV) modules. This three-year project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Protection (BMWK).
The main objective is to evaluate used photovoltaic modules more efficiently and with high performance, as well as to develop new repair options to reduce the number of discarded photovoltaic modules. The project partners are establishing new regulations for the characterization of second-hand photovoltaic modules, which presents considerable potential for use. In addition to ZSW, the companies 2nd Life Solar, HaWe Engineering and ELMED Dr Mense are participating in the project.
The term RENEW refers to the repair and reuse of photovoltaic modules. When projecting into the future, it is evident that the ambitious global expansion objectives of photovoltaic energy will not only demand the constant production of new modules, but it will also be crucial to keep existing modules in operation for as long as possible. This not only contributes to sustainability, but also results in a reduction in the cost of photovoltaic electricity.
Repowering of photovoltaic modules
Rapid technological advancement in the last ten years has made new modules attractive to power plant operators for economic reasons, due to their greater production in the same area. Repowering involves disassembling old modules and replacing them with more recent and powerful modules, maintaining their functionality.
Extensive experience gained with field-aged modules at ZSW’s Solab solar laboratory demonstrates that performance degradation is minimal for most modules, even after more than 20 years of operation, especially in temperate climate locations. like Central Europe. According to 2nd Life Solar’s experience, currently around 70% of discarded modules are still operational.
Additionally, the number of old modules that are disposed of properly does not match the planned quantities, raising the question of where these modules end up as unmanaged electrical waste, according to the company 2nd Life Solar GmbH, which specializes in waste management. For this reason, its research team adheres to the principle of the circular economy. Before recycling the modules, their functionality is verified. If they are operational, the module can be reused directly .
The durability of photovoltaic modules, along with their repair and evaluation options after years of use, are crucial aspects for the future. With many manufacturers no longer available to customers at the end of a module’s life, the project recognizes the great need to improve repair and reuse options throughout Germany.
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