06.05.2021

AGH UST develops innovative technology for recycling photovoltaic panels


photo AGH UST

An innovative method of PV panel recycling is currently being developed in AGH UST laboratories. The University authorities together with 2loop Tech - a technology and research company - have established a consortium with the aim of conducting research and implementation work. The research and implementation team includes scientists from Poland, Czechia and Slovakia.

Photovoltaic panels have been recently gaining immense popularity all over the world as a method of producing energy. It is estimated that by 2025 over 420 000 tonnes of panels will be installed in Poland alone. According to a report published by the Institute for Renewable Energy (IEO), the total capacity of all photovoltaic installations in Poland will then be 8000MW. Given that the estimated useful life of a panel is between 20 and 30 years, we should expect over 100 tonnes of decommissioned photovoltaic modules to be disposed of or recycled in Poland alone. We already are able to recycle materials – such as aluminium, silicon or glass - from PV panels. However, as of now, these methods tend to be incomplete, inefficient or costly.

“We are facing a global challenge of treating decommissioned photovoltaic modules. Our methods of recycling PV panels, which we have developed in cooperation with the 2loop Tech Company, will be both 100% environmentally friendly and economically viable. Owing to the technologies we are working on, we expect to achieve nearly full recyclability, including precious metals such as silver, in the form that will make them fully reusable” – said Professor Marek Cała, Dean of the Faculty of Mining and Geoengineering.

The market for photovoltaic systems has seen an impressive growth in the EU countries. Over the last 10 years, the total installed capacity of photovoltaic installations in the EU was up by 100GW reaching 130GW at the end of 2019. According to data published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2019, the total installed PV capacity in the EU increased by 13% with the increase in new capacity in 2019 being 87% higher than in 2018. The two leading countries - Spain and Germany - accounted for 50% of the increase in photovoltaic installation capacity in the entire European Union in 2019.

The global economy must take up the challenge. In 5 or 10 years it might already be too late” – said Professor Marek Cała. He added: “We believe, that Poland may become a global leader in the recycling of photovoltaic installations. We have the required know-how, production capacity, favourable geographical location as well as companies willing to invest in the development of effective technologies that would be safe for the environment.”

The agreement concluded as part of the project provides for the development of a recycling technology that will make decommissioned photovoltaic panels nearly 100% recyclable. The AGH University of Science and Technology is currently conducting laboratory research while developing a method of processing the scrapped panels. Industrial research will be conducted by the Department of Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Mining and Geoengineering (WGiG). The implementation work and launch of the prototypical production line will take place in the 2loop Tech plant located in Czaple outside Torun.

Mr. Marcin Karbowniczek, the President of the 2loop Tech company, said: “Together with AGH-UST we are working on an innovative technology that will provide companies with efficient and cost-effective PV panel recycling solutions in order to minimize the costs involved in the process, without the need to transfer those costs over to the end-user. Companies supplying the panels are increasingly aware of the rising problem posed by the waste from renewable energy installations and there are already a few pioneers among them taking active steps to make good use of the new possibilities, thus paving the way for responsibly recycling waste components from decommissioned PV installations.

Under the agreement concluded in late April, the industrial studies should be completed by October 2022 while the implementation and launch of the production line should take place by 2023. 2loop Tech is the leader of the consortium responsible for the project implementation whereas AGH UST is in charge of the research part of the undertaking.

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2loop Tech is a research and technology company specialising in the design, development and implementation of innovative systems for recycling equipment and devices used in the renewable energy sector. Thanks to the company’s own research as well as the research and implementation consortium established with AGH-UST, the company brings innovative, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective recycling solutions for photovoltaic modules to the global market. 2loop Tech is an international team of renowned scientists, thanks to whom the currently developed technology will become of one the most innovative and efficient methods of reclaiming raw materials and reducing the amount of waste generated by the energy production sector. In 2021 the company intends to open up a Pre-IPO placement to be then get listed on New Connect in 2022.