Solar cell recycling beckons

Solar cell recycling beckons

Workers are installing solar panels as roofs in parking lots. Thailand needs recycling facilities to support widespread use of solar panels. Chanat Katanyu
Workers are installing solar panels as roofs in parking lots. Thailand needs recycling facilities to support widespread use of solar panels. Chanat Katanyu

Local companies are keen on investment in solar panel recycling plants under the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme to capitalise on growth of solar panel installation in Thailand.

Recycling facilities for solar panels are in demand as usage of panels on rooftops, farms, households, factories and buildings skyrockets, with prices of installation falling as the panels become cheaper.

Solar panels contain many different silicon cells -- thin film solar cells and crystalline silicon solar cells -- as well as cadmium telluride, which is needed for recycling.

The Industrial Works Department projects the volume of solar panels expiring in 5-10 years will reach 500,000 tonnes or 18 million solar panels.

Solar panels typically last 20 years.

Thongchai Chawalitpichaet, director-general of the department, said the pilot location for solar panel recycling plants will be in Chachoengsao, as some local investors have prepared budgets and land plots there.

"They would like to invest in these facilities, but investors are calling for the government to support their investments with incentives and privileges," he said.

The department is in talks with many state agencies and related organisations to push forward such plants.

Mr Thongchai said there will be 10 strategic areas across the country allotted as recycling zones for solar panels.

According to the department, Thailand has 450 solar power generation projects.

Most projects are located in central and northeastern provinces.

"We forecast the country needs 100 recycling plants to support the expiry of solar panels," said Mr Thongchai.

He said the department has cooperated with the Energy Ministry to allocate a government budget of 20 million baht to support a study of each investor for the recycling facilities.

"It is the first time Thailand is preparing recycling facilities of solar panels after the government supported solar power generation," said Mr Thongchai.

The Energy Ministry said companies and industrial operators have installed solar panels generating 8,600 megawatts as of 2018, some 15% of the country's power generation of 56,034MW.

Capacity from this platform grew nearly 300% from 3,200MW in 2017.

The new version of the national power development plan 2018-37 has set new solar power capacity at 12,725MW by 2037.

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