India’s solar PV waste problem


    In News

    • Recently, A report prepared by the National Solar Energy Federation of India predicted that India could generate over 34,600 tonnes of cumulative solar waste in India by 2030.


    • India has the world’s fourth highest solar PV deployment. The installed solar capacity was nearly 62GW in November 2022.  .This contributes  to a large  amount of solar PV waste.
    • India’s solar PV installations are dominated by crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology. A typical PV panel is made of c-Si modules (93%) and cadmium telluride thin-film modules (7%) Both the technologies have a recovery rate of 85-90 per cent.
    • The market value of raw materials recovered from solar panels could reach $450 million by 2030, according to a projection by the International Renewable Energy Agency. This amount of raw materials is approximately the same as that required to build 60 million new solar panels or to generate 18 GW of electricity.

    India’s current PV recycling policy

    • India had recently included PV waste under E waste management rules. This places PV modules under the Extended Producer Responsibility framework.
      • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumption stage in a product’s life cycle.
    • According to a 2021 report, approximately 50% of the total materials in A PV module can be recovered but in India only about 20% of the  PV waste is recovered and the rest is treated informally. As a result, the waste often accumulates at landfills,which pollute the surroundings.
    • Incinerating the waste  also releases sulphur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen cyanide into the atmosphere.

    Issues with Policy

    • Clubbing PV waste with other e-waste could lead to confusion as characteristics of solar panel materials are different from other E wastes.
      • PV cells have Monocrystalline or multi-crystalline silicon. Recovering this silicon needs different methods than those used for e waste ,where the main priority is recovery of metals.
    • Recycling PV waste is not economical at this stage. According to the National Renewable Energy  Recycling a solar panel costs between $20 and $30, Laboratory, while sending it to a landfill costs $1-2.
    • Lack of Incentives from the government for recycling is another challenge.

    Remedial Measures

    • India should formulate and implement provisions specific to PV waste treatment within the ambit of the e-waste guidelines.
    • A Central regulatory body should be set up to protect against financial losses incurred in waste collection and treatment.
    • An awareness campaign to drive home the hazardous qualities of PV materials.
    • India needs to pay more attention to domestic R&D efforts since  local solar PV-panel manufacturing capacity  is limited.

    Government Initiatives

    • Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission : it aims to achieve 20 GW of grid connected solar power by 2022 in three phases through several steps including Solar Park Scheme, Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) scheme for grid connected solar PV power projects, and Viability Gap Funding (VGF)
      • . The target was revised to 100 GW in 2014-15.
    • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Uttan Mahabhiyan Yojana (PM-KUSUM) :It aims for solarisation of agriculture through grid connected agricultural solar pumps.
    • Suryamitra Skill Development Programme :it is implemented by  National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) . It focuses on skilling the workforce for  Solar Energy project’s installation, operation & maintenance.
    • Atal Jyoti Yojana :it aims to provide solar street lighting systems for public use.
    • Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI) Scheme:Under this scheme financial incentives are provided to the beneficiary for installing solar power plant rooftop projects.
    • Green Energy Corridor Scheme: It is related to laying of new transmission lines and creating new sub-station capacity for evacuation (from region of production to region of consumption) of renewable power.