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Photovoltaic Waste Management

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April 01, 2023

Why in news?

The solar photovoltaic waste has been increasing in recent times and there are policy gaps in addressing it.

What is solar photovoltaic?

  • Photovoltaics (often shortened as PV) gets its name from the process of converting light to electricity which is called the photovoltaic effect.
  • A single PV device is known as a cell.
  • These PV cells such as semiconductor materials such as silicon, and selenium.
  • When the light falls, the selenium compound releases electrons that are sufficient to maintain the flow of current through the external circuit.

What is photovoltaic waste?

  • The solar photovoltaic contain elements such as silver, tin, lead, glass sheet, aluminum frame, copper wires, panel encapsulant and silicon wafers.
  • Leaching of toxic metals (such as lead and cadmium) into the soil contaminates the local water.
  • Gradual incineration of the panel encapsulant releases sulphur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen cyanide into the atmosphere.
  • According to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) India could generate 50,000-3,25,000tons of cumulative photovoltaic waste by 2030 and more than 4 million tons by 2050.
  • India is expected to become one of the top five leading photovoltaic waste producers globally by 2045-2050.

R.K. Singh committee had been constituted to propose an action plan to evolve a “circular economy” in solar panel through reuse/recycling of waste generated.

What measures were taken for the reduction of PV waste?

  • Revised electronic waste (e-waste) management Rules in 2022-Brought solar photovoltaic cells, panels, and modules under its ambit.
  • Green Credit Programme-Aims to promote green growth and sustainable practices addressing solar photovoltaic wastes.

What are the challenges?

  • Lack of commercial recovery units–Lack of commercial raw material recovery facility for solar e-waste operations in India.
  • Informal units-Growing informal units in handling photovoltaic waste
  • Landfills -The 80% of photovoltaic waste are landed in landfills 
  • Lack of policy-No policy in the collection, storage, recycling, and repurposing of photovoltaic waste.
  • The solar wastes are included in the e-waste but there is no separate policy for it.
  • Lack of markets-The market to repurpose or reuse recycled photovoltaic waste is less in India.
  • Lack of institutions–A body to measure, monitor, and report solar photovoltaic waste is absent.

India’s status

  • Solar PV is the second largest absolute generation growth of all renewable technologies in 2021 after wind.
  • India stands fourth in solar photovoltaic deployment.
  • India is the world's third largest producer of renewable energy.

India’s targets

  • National Solar Mission (NSM) - To install 100 GW grid-connected solar power plants by the year 2022.
  • At COP-21 in Paris in 2015 India committed to a 40% share of power generation from non-fossil fuel sources.
  • The country’s vision is to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2070.
  • Increasing renewables capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
  • Reducing cumulative emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030.
  • Reducing emissions intensity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 45% by 2030.

References

  1. The Hindu │Solar Photovoltaic
  2. IEA │Data For Solar PV
  3. The Hindu │ Solar Photovoltaic
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