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TRANSITIONING SOLAR ENERGY TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

 
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ABOUT CPVA

The Circular PV Alliance’s mission is to realise the full environmental, economic and social benefits of solar energy by supporting the Australian solar energy sector transition into a circular economy.

CPVA is is a grass-roots organisation, founded by the solar energy industry, for the solar energy industry. CPVA provides a support network and central point of engagement with industry stakeholders, policy-makers, other industries and  government for matters relating to the solar energy circular economy.

 

WHY CPVA? WHY NOW?

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

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OUR PRECIOUS NATURAL RESOURCES AND MATERIALS ARE BEING WASTED

Solar panels contain many valuable materials such as silver, silicon, aluminium, copper and glass. These materials are derived from natural resources and are being thrown into landfill. We believe this is simply not good enough and want to do better.

THE NET POSITIVE IMPACT OF SOLAR ENERGY IS UNKNOWN

Advances in solar panel technology means that growing numbers of solar panels are being replaced (and subsequently discarded) very early into their lifespan, on average at the 8 - 10 year mark.  This means the full environmental benefit of these panels is not being realised.


We want to know - is the impact of manufacturing solar panels offset by the clean energy they generate when they are only installed for 1/3 of their intended lifespan?

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THERE IS A NEED FOR INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP TO ENABLE A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

There is AMAZING work being done in isolation to drive more sustainable outcomes for solar energy. This important work will benefit from a central, coordinated platform to bring together all the pieces of the puzzle required to establish a thriving solar energy circular economy.

THERE IS ENERGY INEQUITY IN THE WORLD

DID YOU KNOW approximately 800 million people worldwide do not have access to electricity? A good portion of these people are our south-east Asia neighbours. This number is set to rise once the full impact of the global pandemic is understood.

Reused solar panels have an important role to play in lifting communities out of energy poverty.

SDG7: Data and Projections – Analysis - IEA

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WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO FUTURE GENERATIONS TO MAKE SURE WE ACT AS SUSTAINABLY AND ETHICALLY AS POSSIBLE

Mass legacy waste issues and depleted natural resources is not what we aspire to leave our descendants. We are obligated and motivated to create better ways of managing the by-products of our human endeavours.

 

HOW CAN CPVA HELP?

Real action, meaningful insights, tangible results.

CPVA evolved in response to a very real and very current issue regarding the handling of discarded solar panels in Australia. Our primary focus is to create a circular economy for solar energy.  CPVA provides a support network and central point of engagement between stakeholders, policy-makers, other industries and government.


This approach reflects the recommendations of industry reports from around the world that highlight the need for stakeholders to work together to support the emergence of a circular economy.

Circular business models for Australia solar photovoltaics - Arup


CPVA believes that a united industry-led approach will identify the necessary tools and strategies required to enable a solar energy circular economy and facilitate the self-determination of various stakeholders in how they wish to participate in this new market paradigm.

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WHAT IS CPVA DOING?

The following Priority Actions are our initial focus to achieve immediate impact.

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1. CPVA MICRO-PILOT PROJECT

CPVA's Micro-Pilot Project is designed to gain a preliminary understanding of the potential for discarded panels to be reused in a ‘second-life’ application, and investigate what an appropriate panel testing protocol may entail.


The first batch of solar panels is currently undergoing lab testing. The next important step is to consider what type/extent of panel repair/refurbishment is achievable.


The tested panels that 'pass' will be re-installed in a new location and connected to a monitoring platform to gain real-time, long-term data on their performance in the field.


CPVA intends to obtain funding for an expanded project to define detailed reuse panel standards and compliance requirements.

Head over to our Micro-Pilot page for more details.

2. ESTABLISH STRONG ORGANISATIONAL LEADERSHIP

The industry holds all the keys to driving the circular economy and it is important that CPVA’s leadership reflects the various needs and interests of industry stakeholders.


CPVA’s founding directors will open 6 board positions at our upcoming board meeting to attract motivated and credentialed participants to join and drive CPVA’s exciting transformation agenda.

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3. DEVELOP AN INDUSTRY-LED CIRCULAR ECONOMY ROADMAP

There is growing consumer expectation and government policy emerging (or already in place) that is steering the market towards a circular economy. It is now up to the industry to decide how it would like to participate in this new market paradigm.  Engaging with industry stakeholders to develop a Roadmap is an important step to assist the transition.


CPVA will engage with industry stakeholders to identify the opportunities, challenges and roles involved with the transition to a circular economy and set out a strategy to respond effectively. We will develop and test ideas through market-sounding, identify and lend support to relevant projects and collaborate to prepare policy.


Through expanding our membership base and establishing partnerships CPVA will represent our industry's interests and support new sustainable commercial opportunities in the circular economy.

4. DEVELOP CERTIFICATION STANDARDS FOR REUSED SOLAR PANELS

Providing certainty around safety and quality is essential for driving the uptake of reused solar panels. There are many technical, commercial and legal matters to consider.


It is important that research starts promptly into developing industry standards for testing and refurbishing panels for reuse, and appropriately classifying/certifying reuse panels for market.


Panel testing needs to be scalable so that it is an attractive commercial activity within the circular economy.

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5. DEVELOP TRACING TECH AND ‘STAMP’ TO ASSURE REUSED PANELS

In conjunction with the certification standard a tracing application and ‘stamp’ will provide the requisite rigour and certainty to guarantee product and data credibility.


Stamped onto the back of each panel will be a ‘fingerprint’. Scanning the fingerprint will provide access to the panel’s information which is stored in a panel profile database (see next action).


The tracing app will also follow panels that are sent for recycling to classify offtake materials after recycling processes.

6. ESTABLISH A PANEL PROFILE DATABASE

The database will hold all the information associated with a panel that is certified for reuse, including test results (such as wattage output), any refurbishment works undertaken, dates/times of testing/refurbishment works, classification etc.


We will also explore the possibility to interface this database with the Clean Energy Regulator’s panel/STC records, to create individual panel profiles for panels previously installed in Australia.


Ultimately, the lifecycle of a solar panel will be mapped and long-term panel longevity and performance will be catalogued. When a panel is processed through a panel testing facility, it's information will be added to the database.


This data will form part of an annual Solar Panel Performance Insight report prepared and issued by CPVA.

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GET INVOLVED

Real action, meaningful insights, tangible results.

CPVA is building a national and international network of leaders, service providers, 'thinkers & do-ers' and movers & shakers in the solar energy circular economy. If you would like to collaborate, please Contact CPVA.


A range of membership options offering a variety of benefits to the CPVA community will soon be available. Subscribe below to keep up to date with this exciting opportunity.

If you would like to have an immediate impact, consider making a donation towards the Micro-Pilot Project.