As New Jersey continues to build its renewable energy sector to combat the effects of climate change, the State will soon need to address aging solar infrastructure approaching the end of its life.
A 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Program (IEA-PVPS) found that over 90 percent of materials in typical photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, silicon, aluminum and glass can be recycled and used again to produce new solar panels.
To explore how New Jersey can best reuse and recycle aging solar panels, legislation (A-4011) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin and John McKeon to establish the New Jersey Solar Panel Recycling Commission received final legislative approval on Thursday, passing the full Senate, 37-0. It was approved by the full Assembly last week, 75-0.
“Solar technologies will play a vital role in New Jersey’s energy future,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “We’ve been seeing an increasing shift to renewable energy sources since the early 2000s, when more people began choosing solar panels to power their homes for the enormous environmental benefits and cheaper electricity bills. However, the 30-year lifespan of many of these early solar panels will be here before we know it. This Commission will help us find ways to effectively recycle this valuable material so we can get another 30 years of clean, renewable energy from it.”
Under the bill, the commission will investigate options for recycling and other end-of life management methods for photovoltaic (PV) and other solar energy generation structures, and develop recommendations for legislative, administrative, or private sector action.
The commission will be comprised of nine members; the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, or a designee, to serve as the ex-officio chairperson; the Commission of Community Affairs, or a designee, to serve as the ex-officio vice-chairperson; two members of the State’s business community with expertise, knowledge, or experience in Class D recycling and disposal of consumer electronics; one representative of a non-profit organization that promotes recycling in the State; two members who are currently employed in the solar power industry; and two members representing the State’s academic community with expertise in recycling issues.
“There’s no denying that all New Jerseyans will one day depend on renewable energy sources to go about their daily lives,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “If we can discover ways to recycle the materials used to make renewable sources, we’ll be able to further reduce waste and make the process even more environmentally-friendly. Sustainable action like this will benefit our planet, our children and future generations.”
The commission will also be responsible for submitting its findings and recommendations for legislative, administrative or private sector action in a final report to the Governor and Legislature within one year. The report would be published on the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) website.
Under the measure, the DEP may adopt rules based on the recommendations of the commission that require recycling or other end-of-life management methods for PV and other solar energy generation structures.
The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.