Journal article Open Access

Towards a circular supply chain for PV modules: Review of today's challenges in PV recycling, refurbishment and re-certification

Tsanakas, John A.; van der Heide, Arvid; Radavicius, Tadas; Denafas, Julius; Lemaire, Elisabeth; Wang, Ke; Poortmans, Jef; Voroshazi, Eszter

Photovoltaic (PV) waste, associated to the exponentially growing PV installations on global scale, presents today an emerging environmental challenge but also brings unprecedented and multifold value creation opportunities. In this context, significant PV business and research and development (R&D) efforts shift towards establishing a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and economically viable end‐of‐life (EoL) management for PV modules: including recycling, recovery of raw materials, repair/refurbishment and even re‐use of decommissioned or failed PV modules. In the CIRCUSOL project, PV partners aspire to formalize the repair/refurbish and reuse value chains in the PV industry and propose a circular business model, based on a product‐service system (PSS). Towards these goals, this review study introduces the relevant research groundwork, a status overview and today's R&D and business challenges in PV recycling, repair/refurbishment and re‐certification aspects for second‐life PV modules. The topics and the relevant reported literature are examined from both circular economy and technology perspective. The review indicates a considerable technological and operational know‐how in PV EoL management that already exists and continuously evolves in mature PV markets. On the other hand, R&D in repair/refurbishment of decommissioned and/or failed PV modules remains scarce, and best practices and commercial services for reliability testing/recertification and trading of second‐life PV modules are neither standardized nor consolidated into any PSS or business model.

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