The European Solar PV Alliance (ESIA) is an industry initiative launched by the European Commission. It brings together companies, institutes, and organisations active in the European PV industry with a primary aim to propose measures and solutions to the European Commission and the political process to strengthen the PV value chain in Europe. The steering committee includes the European Commission, EIT Innoenergy (secretariat), European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC), and SolarPower Europe. Following an active analytic and collaborative process during spring and summer, the second ESIA recommendation paper has just been released.
The rapid increase in end-of-life waste from photovoltaic (PV) modules in Europe is a significant challenge. Current estimates indicate an annual generation of over 200,000 tons of discarded PV panels, with projections suggesting a potential increase to over 400,000 tons by 2030. Among this waste, approximately 60% to 70% comprises high-transparency solar glass. Effectively managing this waste stream necessitates an efficient collection system and suitable recycling processes.
Given that glass constitutes a substantial portion of PV module weight, recycling glass proves environmentally beneficial by reducing CO2 emissions and conserving energy. However, the composition of solar glass varies, especially concerning antimony (Sb) content, depending on the production method. Antimony is used to enhance the performance of patterned solar glass but introduces environmental and health concerns, complicating recycling efforts.
While float glass, commonly used in Europe, can be readily recycled within the EU due to its consistent composition, recycling imported patterned glass—with varying antimony content—via module imports is challenging and economically inefficient. Antimony-containing glass can lead to undesirable interactions with the manufacturing process, affecting quality and emissions.
To address these challenges, the ESIA Recommendation paper suggests that the European Union should consider mandating PV module manufacturers under the upcoming Ecodesign regulations to disclose the composition and manufacturing process of solar glass, including additives like antimony compounds. This information could be integrated into the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) or another accessible channel. Implementing such a measure will equip recyclers with the necessary data to process solar glass effectively and economically. This, in turn, will promote glass recycling within the EU and contribute to a more sustainable circular economy.