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End of Life Management: Extend, Re-use, Repair, Recycle    (PP5.5)

PP5.5: End of Life Management: Extend, Re-use, Repair, Recycle  

Investigators: UNSW – Rong Deng, Richard Corkish


The continuous uptake and adoption of solar energy technologies will lead to the generation of end-of-life modules once they become damaged or when the system is decommissioned. Classified as waste electric electronic equipment, photovoltaic modules require end-of-life management because of the valuable resources contained that may be recovered.


Additionally, these devices often contain hazardous components which can damage the environment or human health if not properly managed. In this light, the program package 4.5 aims to address the end-of-life issue by conducting research on most levels of the waste hierarchy: minimization, reuse, repair, recycle.


Research on all these levels can assist other program packages and guide research on module manufacturing. This also feeds into the selection of materials and technologies for manufacturing, aiming to minimize waste and decrease barriers to reuse, repair and recycling, with information feeding back into PP5.1.

Minimization aims to extend the lifetime of photovoltaics in order to decrease the generation of waste arising from the sector. Reuse and repair solutions call for research around end-of-life classification and diagnostics to allow for re-use of modules that are still functional and identifying the components that are faulty and could be repaired. Reuse and repair research also aims to address questions around the minimum lifetime required for a module to be reused, as opposed to recycled.


Recycling aims to process and extract all the materials contained in the end-of-life devices and feed these materials back into the supply chain. This involves research on how to best process the end-of-life devices to achieve high recovery rates, low processing and environmental cost and suitable quality for re-use in industry - be it the photovoltaic industry or other sectors. Holistically, lifetime initiatives aim to identify the optimum device lifespan by overlapping manufacturing, installation, use, and end-of-life requirements and constraints.

Work Plan

  • In alignment with PP5.2, analyse the economic cost-benefit of re-use and recycling pathways (collection, transportation, process) of modules after first life, as well as the environmental impact

  • Identify technical and economic barriers (in conjunction with PP5.2) and propose solutions to the re-use of modules after first life

  • Develop sorting and triage methods to allow identifying which modules can be re-use and which should be recycled

  • Identify and assess re-powering, which can trigger premature EOL of working modules

  • Identify and propose novel end uses for materials contained in end-of-life photovoltaic modules and in the balance of systems

  • Develop novel recycling technologies for end-of-life photovoltaic modules and for balance of systems (mounting frames, cables, etc.) 

  • Identify and propose optimum transportation network solutions for end-of-life PV management in Australia from both an economic and an environmental perspective.

  • Assess emerging technologies as to their recyclability. Propose better design solutions considering recycling requirements in conjunction with PP5.1

  • Evaluate and propose regulatory frameworks for re-use and other end-of-life alternatives.

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