Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels: Reusing, Recycling, & Disposal

California has seen rapid growth in the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity for homes, businesses, schools, farms, utilities, and more. Solar energy is a critical part of California’s efforts to cut air pollution, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and stop the worst impacts of climate change.

In 2002, California passed the nation’s first renewable portfolio standard, mandating electric utilities invest in solar and wind power. A few years later, in 2006, California launched the Million Solar Roofs Initiative to incentivize consumers and businesses to invest in solar energy. Consequently, as of 2021, 20 percent of California’s electricity came from instate solar. Approximately 65% of the state’s solar PV market is found in the utility-scale sector, typically large industrial-scale power plants in the desert regions, while 35% is located on rooftops or on ground-mounted systems at schools, parking lots, and farms.

With a typical 25-year lifespan for most solar PV systems, the majority of solar panels installed in California are still in use today. Like many consumer electronics, solar PV panels can be reused or, once they reach the end of their useful life, they can be recycled. However, reuse and recycling practices need to be supported and promoted. Industry, consumers, and the government can work together to reduce the number of solar PV panels that unnecessarily end up in landfills by increasing reuse and recycling opportunities and practices. Understanding the facts is an important part of building a sustainable energy system.

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