Mandi: With the growing emphasis on sustainable energy solutions in India, solar energy has become a prominent focus in the country. However, as the use of solar cells to generate solar energy increases, so does the concern about potential hazards posed by their waste in the future. Addressing this critical issue, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi have successfully developed a cutting-edge technique to handle the disposal of solar cell waste effectively.
Led by Dr. Satvashil Ramesh Powar, an esteemed Associate Professor at the Mechanical and Materials Engineering School, IIT Mandi, the research has reached a significant milestone. Alongside Dr. Atul Dhar, an Assistant Professor in the same department, and their research student, Shweta Singh, the team has published the analysis of their findings in the esteemed journal “Resources, Conservation, and Recycling.”
As India’s solar energy infrastructure rapidly advances, the country is estimated to generate a staggering 7.5 million tons of solar cell waste by 2050. Dr. Satvashil Ramesh Powar explains that the current solar capacity stands at approximately 62 gigabytes as of November 30, 2022, with solar cell modules functioning for about 30 years. Consequently, the expected waste production between 4.4 to 7.5 million tons by 2050 calls for immediate action. Notably, by 2030, solar panels are projected to become the largest category of generated waste in India.
The research conducted at IIT Mandi sought to address this impending challenge by focusing on recycling solar cell waste and recovering valuable resources from it. The team recognized that these resources, including cadmium, tellurium, indium, gallium, and germanium, are in limited supply while witnessing substantial demand across various industries.
Dr. Atul Dhar emphasizes that the study underscores the urgency for a sustainable solution to handle the increasing volume of discarded photovoltaic (PV) modules, commonly known as solar cells. The innovative recycling method developed by the researchers involves various crucial processes such as reduction, reuse, repair, refurbish, redesign, remanufacture, and recycling. The overarching goal is to minimize waste generation and energy consumption throughout the entire lifespan of solar PV modules.
The research findings have far-reaching implications, providing a comprehensive framework for recycling solar cell waste and reclaiming valuable resources. By implementing this holistic approach, India can make significant strides towards building a greener and more environmentally conscious future.
The groundbreaking work carried out by the researchers at IIT Mandi offers a promising solution to one of the pressing challenges posed by the rapid growth of solar energy infrastructure. With their expertise and innovative recycling technique, Dr. Satvashil Ramesh Powar, Dr. Atul Dhar, and their team have taken a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible energy landscape in India.