Solar Panel End of Life: What Happens to Old Panels?

There’s been a lot of good news about solar power recently, but an article published by the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week encourages solar panel owners to have a think about what happens to their solar panels when they have reached end of life.

SMH describes it as a “waste crisis” on the horizon. So what exactly will happen to your solar panels when they reach end of life or malfunction? What is Australia’s policy on solar panel waste?

Solar Panel Waste: Australia Needs to Figure it Out

In December of last year, Australia reached a record of 2 million households with rooftop solar. What will happen to all of those solar panels when they reach end of life in roughly 30 years?

Australia’s environment ministers have not determined policies concerning solar panels and how they are handled as waste.

Experts and former advisers say that a responsible end of life strategy should be of upmost importance for solar panels, and they believe proper action has not yet been taken. It is assumed bad planning and cost concerns are reasons a concrete policy is not in place for a more environmental way to dispose of solar panels.

Solar Panels Going to Landfill

Just like paint, batteries, electronics and furniture waste, solar panels are going to landfill.

Solar panels and other electronics waste in particular may contain hazardous substances. When these products end up in landfill they contribute to Earth’s pollution problem.

“Photovoltaic panels are predominantly made from glass, polymer and aluminium, but may also contain potentially hazardous materials such as lead, copper and zinc.”

– Nicole Hasham, Sydney Morning Herald

What’s the Solution?

A recycling scheme for solar panels and batteries is needed. Australia already has schemes in place for televisions and computers. Despite costs to recycle, these recycling schemes create jobs and help the environment.

There are state schemes and companies in place who are trying to keep solar panels and batteries out of landfill while the government continues to take no action:

  • The state of Victoria will be banning all electronic waste at landfills from July this year.
  • Sustainability Victoria is reporting on management options for solar panels.
  • Reclaim PV, a solar panel recycler in Australia, is encouraging bans on sending solar panels to landfill: they claim 90% of a panel can be recycled.

Other states and research bodies are focusing on this issue. See if anyone in your state is involved.

Even with these efforts, Australia still needs a nationwide scheme to deal with solar panel materials at end of life.

Read the full story on Sydney Morning Herald.

(This article was originally published on Solar Trust Centre)

A Guide To Solar Power For Sydney Homeowners

Going solar might be a no-brainer for homeowners in Sydney. We are in the sunny state of Australia so what better way to produce energy than from the sun?

Before jumping into the decision we recommend you do your research. This guide is a great place to start.

We’ve put together some of the benefits of solar as well as factors you should consider before installing solar on your Sydney roof!

Benefits Of Installing Solar Panels In Sydney

If you’ve been researching solar, you probably already know the benefits of making the switch:

  • Solar power can save you money
  • Reduce the need to generate electricity from fossil fuels
  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Create your own electricity
  • The ability to add batteries and other components to your system in the future
  • Increase the value of your home
  • Have a reliable energy source
  • Store power during the day with battery storage and use it at night for more efficiency

These are the general benefits you’ll find listed on any solar installer’s site. However, you should also consider the benefits of installing solar in your specific location.

If you live on or around Sydney, here are some more specific benefits you may not be aware of:

  • You may be entitled to a number of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) based on your location and other factors
  • You may be eligible for financial incentives, subsidies, loans or grants from the Government for your installation
  • You may be eligible for a feed-in tariff payment for any electricity you don’t use and export to the grid
  • Make sure you ask your installer about these benefits so you are aware of how you can save!

Now let’s move on to what you need to consider before you install solar on your roof.

7 Factors To Consider Before Installing Solar On Your Sydney Roof

Here are the seven most important factors you’ll need to consider before installing solar:

1. The solar panels themselves

Solar PV panels on roofs of homes and businesses generate clean electricity by converting sunlight into usable electricity. This conversion takes place within the solar cells and is a process that requires no moving parts. Soltek Energy only use high quality, durable and long lasting solar panels from reputable solar manufacturers that we trust to be around for a long time.

2. Inverter solutions

A solar inverter converts the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into a 240V alternating current (AC). This AC electricity can be fed into your home to operate your household appliances. Long lasting solar systems for the Australian climate require high quality inverters. Unfortunately, lower quality inverters and panels have failed to perform under Australian conditions in large numbers and failed in as little as 2 years.

If you want more information on how panels and inverters work together plus 3 options for how to use the energy you generate, read our guide: How Solar Energy Works.

3. Battery storage (if applicable)

Since 2015 solar storage batteries have reduced steadily in cost to the point that pay back for many households is coming down from more than 10 years towards 7 years and less.

4. Mounting systems

Solar systems are mounted to roofs with a mounting system using various railings, frames and tiles or tin feet. Most mounting systems are made of aluminium with stainless steel hardware and are designed to accept a variety of solar modules on a variety of roof types. Purchasing a strong and well engineered mounting system is the sensible way to protect the investment you have made in your solar system as they will be more rigid. The standard mounting frame warranty is 10 years.

5. System size

Your solar system is rated according to the number of Watts it can produce per hour. There are a number of tools online to help you calculate what system size you will need.

6. Shading

The amount of electricity generated by your solar system directly relates to the amount of sunlight that your PV panels receive. The more your solar modules are covered in shade, the less electricity your system will generate.

7. How long your system will last

The key components susceptible to failure in your solar system are the solar panels, the inverter and some components like fuses and isolators. The key warranty for solar panels is the Manufacturer’s Warranty. Make sure you understand what is included in the Manufacturer’s Warranty so you aren’t surprised by any costs.

All of this information and more is available in PDF format in the Beginner’s Guide to Solar from LG and Soltek Energy. It’s a great resource to have on hand if you’re thinking about solar.

Why You Should Pay More for Quality Solar Panels

A cheaper solar panel deal usually isn’t something to get excited about unless it’s a deal from a large, trusted manufacturer with a good track record. This could end up costing you more in the long run, and here’s why.

As the warmer months set in, thousands of households across Australia will begin to wonder if they should switch to solar.

There are many factors that come into play when making this decision:

  • the need for cheaper electricity bills
  • planning to sell and wanting to add value to a home
  • wanting to reduce reliance on the grid and large energy suppliers
  • conscious of carbon footprint and wanting to reduce strain on the environment
  • plus many other financial, environmental and personal reasons that might apply.

While these households are usually very keen to make the change to solar, as soon as they see a quote that is higher than they expected, they decide they can’t justify the costs involved.

This is largely due to misinformation in the industry. Mid-sized quality systems can cost between $7K – $10K, but cheap solar manufacturers might advertise their low quality systems for $3K – $4K which excites potential buyers.

Some will give up after this initial step while others will find another installer offering cheaper panels from a brand they’ve never heard of or that has no reviews online. This is where things start to get tricky.

Unfortunately, a cheaper solar panel deal usually isn’t something to get excited about unless it’s a deal from a large, trusted manufacturer with a good track record. A cheaper solar panel is exactly that: they are made from cheaper materials, they go through less quality assurance testing or none at all and they are a big gamble for homeowners wanting to reduce electricity costs.

Cheap solar panels could end up costing you more in the long run, and here’s why.

What’s the Difference Between Cheap and Quality Solar Panels?

You’re not alone if you’ve wondered why some solar panels and inverters cost more than others. They all look the same, and they all do the same things, so why should you bother with the more expensive ones?

The solar industry (including manufacturers, dealers and installers) has come to the simple conclusion that “you get what you pay for”. Unhappy customers also know this to be true. We’ve seen countless bad experiences thanks to poor installation practices and cheap quality panels.

The most important questions to ask yourself when choosing your solar panels are:

1. Does the panel manufacturer have a good track record?
2. What is the manufacturer’s warranty policy on the panels?
3. Is it easy to access the manufacturer warranty information or has the manufacturer made it unclear?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions after 5-10 minutes of research, chances are you’re looking at a cheap solar panel.

Cheaper quality solar panels or inverters are more likely to fail earlier. The manufacturers who produce these cheaply made panels are less likely to honour warranty agreements, especially if they suddenly go out of business right when you are looking for their help.

It Isn’t All Bad News

Of course, not all manufacturers are like this. While the industry certainly has its bad eggs, there are many manufacturers who actually care about the quality of their products, honour their warranty agreements and make sure your panels last as long as possible on your roof.

Beware of Cheap Solar

It’s easy to get dragged in by the possibility of cheaper panels, but we strongly advise you to do your research on the companies you’re looking at and go into the decision with caution. If finances are an issue, keep up to date on what’s happening in your state with solar subsidies, loans, and other payment plans that are becoming available and be ready to make your move for a quality system when the industry is favorable for you.

If you haven’t yet read the eBookCheap Solar – A Cautionary Tale” we highly recommend having a look today. It was produced by the ‘Crap Solar’ Facebook group with the aim of highlighting the pitfalls of cheap solar.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the document:

“Today a quality mid-size system will cost between $7,000 and $10,000. Be careful if the quote is much cheaper than that. A quality system can last for decades, a cheap system will definitely not stand the test of time.”

“So in summary, one gets what one pays for. Tier 1, 25 year output warranty are meaningless terms. Tier 1 is no reflection of build quality and it is not a reflection of the financial strength of the manufacturer. The 25 year output warranty is worthless and will never be claimed. The fine print prevents that. The Manufacturer Warranty and the strength of the manufacturer is all that counts.”

Don’t be fooled by cheap solar!

Originally posted on Solar Trust Centre