In June 2022 Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) became a pilot site for a first-of-its-kind project, installing an 8kW solar system made up of second hand (serviceable) solar panels on the Small Vehicle Receival Centre at Council’s Whylandra Waste and Recycling Centre in Dubbo.

While solar panels are a popular way to save energy and promote better outcomes environmentally, there is a need to provide better options for solar panel reuse and recycling when solar panels are removed and replaced. DRC has partnered with Blue Tribe, CSIRO, Solar Professionals and the NSW Office of Energy and Climate Change’s Sustainability Advantage to pilot an innovative solution to this emerging waste problem. This project has been funded under the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Circular Solar Grants Program.

Mayor of Dubbo Regional Council, Mathew Dickerson said he is pleased to hear we are leading the way when it comes to recycling solar panels, “Dubbo Regional Council is a proud partner of the Second Life Solar project (Phase 1), where we are exploring the reuse of solar panels rather than disposing of the panels into landfill. Our main role is to host the solar system made up of second hand (serviceable) solar panels on the Small Vehicle Receival Centre at the Whylandra Waste and Recycling Centre, here in Dubbo giving them a new life!” said Mayor Dickerson.

With Council participating in this trial to reuse solar panels, it’s hoped that residents will one day be able to reuse solar panels in their own homes or businesses.

“By participating in this trial, we are boosting the service life of solar panels, and increasing the uptake of renewable energy, helping to meet Council’s 50% renewable energy target. There are more than 2.8 million small-scale solar systems installed Australia-wide, and Dubbo is the second largest installer of small-scale solar systems in NSW. So if we can find extended uses for our solar panels, we’ll be reducing our overall environmental footprint,” said DRC’s Manager Resource Recovery & Efficiency, John Wisniewski.

While the current volume of solar panel and associated battery waste is quite small, a scoping study commissioned by the Department of Planning and Environment predicts that by the year 2025, there will be between 3,000 – 10,000 tonnes per year going to landfill, and 40,000 – 71,000 tonnes by 2035. This is why DRC wants to play a pivotal role in reusing solar panels wherever possible. Blue Tribe Co, in partnership with Solar Professionals, installed the small solar system in Dubbo using decommissioned yet serviceable solar panels that would otherwise have been destined for landfill.

Australia leads the way in rooftop solar installations, but solar panels are emerging as a growing source of waste and many of the solar panels currently being disposed of have many years of service life remaining.  Solar panels are designed to operate for 25-30 years but as people upgrade to larger solar systems on their homes and businesses, they are disposing of solar panels that are less than 10 years old because they don’t know what else to do with them. 

“Around the country we are installing record amounts of rooftop solar systems but at the same time we are also throwing away fully functioning older solar modules into landfill. As we transition to 100% renewables it is like filling up a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it” said James McGregor from the Blue Tribe Company.

“This project is about giving these panels a second life by diverting them from landfill and utilising them to continue to generate clean energy to help us get to NSW’s net zero targets sooner. We couldn’t think of a better place to trial this than at DRC’s Whylandra Waste and Recycling Centre in the heart of one of the leading solar communities in Australia.”

Last Edited: 12 Jul 2022

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