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Solar Panels Are Recyclable Right?

Potentially yes, it is within the realm of possibilities to recycle solar panels. However, Washington State is currently the only state having mandated recycling as a requirement for the disposal of solar panels. Recycling mandates are needed because it is far cheaper to dump them and buy new ones than it is to recycle their materials. Currently, most decommissioned solar panels are dumped in the landfill. Some with usable life remaining are sold to third world countries or DIYers to use and then deal with disposing of later.

So what's the big deal, we landfill stuff all the time. Solar panels are generally made out of aluminum,silicon, cadmium, lead, plastic polymers, and antimony. Cadmium and lead are hazardous materials that readily leach into water if the glass is broken and the panels exposed to condensation, rainwater, or groundwater. High winds or tornadoes can turn solar panels into sails, wrenching stands apart and breaking the glass to splinters as seen in the first video below.

But wait, there's a fund for their safe removal right? Yes there is, and it's several million dollars set aside, budgeted to "check a box" and pay workers to take everything out. Recycling costs are not included. The funds are budgeted in the year the permit is approved, in this case 2022-2023. You know how inflation works; it'll be chump change by the end of the 45 year lease. Invenergy structures each site as an LLC, and leases the land instead of buying it. This means they can easily walk away, and when the LLC's funds run out, there is nobody left to sue for damages. Renewable energy companies often walk away when disaster strikes (see second video below).

It's heart breaking to watch these videos. I do not want to see Logan County's viable farmland turned into a solar graveyard.

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