The Queensland government has committed $2.5 million to progress the development of an “Australian first” solar panel recycling scheme in preparation for the “thousands” of PV panels installed on rooftops and across large-scale solar farms in the state that are approaching end of life.

The Smart Energy Council (SEC) has secured funding from the Queensland government to further develop an industry-led solar panel recycling pilot program in the state to ensure broken or end-of-life solar panels can avoid going to landfill and their useful materials are re-purposed.

In 2019, solar panels accounted for 1,000 tonnes of waste in Queensland. Modelling suggests that by 2030, PV and battery storage waste in the state will exceed 17,000 tonnes per annum. Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have predicted that the national solar waste total could reach 100,000 tonnes annually, equivalent to 1.2 GW per year, by the end of the decade.

SEC Chief Executive Officer John Grimes said a solar panel recycling industry in Queensland would take thousands of panels from rooftops, businesses and solar farms and close the loop.

“Queensland has some of the highest rooftop solar penetration in the country, it’s critical we explore how solar panels are dealt with as they reach the end of their life,” he said, adding that Queensland “is the only state in Australia to have a plan for the recycling and stewardship of residential, commercial, and large-scale solar panels.”

“The large-scale solar industry knows it must have a strong product stewardship scheme if it is to maintain a strong social licence to operate.”

Grimes said the next stage of the program will tackle the challenges identified in the initial stage of the program that was first announced in 2023.

The program will investigate the collection and disposal of unwanted solar panels from residential, commercial, and large-scale sites and will also provide information on reprocessing and recovery costs. It is also hoped it will drive momentum and behaviour change in the industry.

“In short, we’re working to ensure residential solar panels can avoid landfill and are repurposed for parts, whilst helping inform the development of a national product stewardship scheme,” Grimes said.

creating opportunity for jobs and economic growth in the state.

“With up to five locations in metro and regional Queensland set to host the pilot, we expect to see a significant uplift in opportunity to create new jobs in recovery and processing activities,” he said.

The $2.5 million for the SEC-led solar panel recycling pilot program is part of almost $5.5 million of funding committed by the Queensland government to encourage better practice in the renewable energy sector.

Almost $3 million has been allocated to advance industry leadership in recycling, career development and social license by improving industry engagement with communities.

The grants, awarded to the Queensland Renewable Energy Council (QREC) and the Clean Energy Council (CEC), will support the coordinated growth of the large-scale renewable energy industry, landholder support projects, support for local councils, community engagement, and exploring the potential opportunities for on-farm benefits.

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