Indian Boffins Find A Greener Solution to Solar PV Waste: Use as Building Material

  • India is estimated to generate 1.8 million tonnes of solar PV waste by 2050.
  • However, the scientists are still unsure of any possible toxicity associated with short- and long-term exposure to back sheet in the indoor environment

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have found an innovative solution to address the problem of solar photovoltaic waste – using discarded solar panels as building material.

Monto Mani, associate professor at IISc’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies, and his team have built a new facility entirely out of EOL photovoltaic (PV) panels and a few other products — like a table and chopping board.

India has set an ambitious target of 100 gigawatt (GW) solar electricity capacity by 2022.  But sadly, there is no proper policy or mechanism to address the solar photovoltaic waste which may impose serious health and environmental threats. It is estimated that by 2050, India may generate 1.8 million tonnes of solar PV waste.

Therefore, the usage of discarded solar panels as building material would prove to be an effective way to deal with this rising problem.

Are these panels safe as building walls?

Explaining about the safety of these panels as building material, Mani says, “Glass has traditionally been the safest of materials. The panels are designed for a working life of 25 years, and the back sheet is extremely durable.”

There are two types of panels. The silicon-based have a toughened glass top, with a polymer (Polyvinyl Fluoride or PVF) back sheet while the other thin film panels have a glass top and a glass bottom (glass-glass) configuration.

Mani and his team are tying to find out any possible toxicity associated with short- and long-term exposure to back sheet in the indoor environment.

Meanwhile, in the current set-up, they are using two panels placed back-to-back, with glass facing outside and inside. “Other configurations are glass on the outside with plywood inner lining or even an earthen wall to offset the slightest of risk associated with indoor exposure to PVF,” Mani says.

The team is planning to build a rapid self-powered sanitation unit which can power its own flushing system, lighting and possibly disinfection as well.

Inputs: DownToEarth