India Could Have 2.95 Billion Tons of Solar Waste by 2047, Says Study

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A study has estimated around 2.95 billion tons of solar power material could enter India’s electronic-waste stream between by 2047, based on an expectation the nation will have deployed 347.5 GW of solar panels by the end of this decade. Researchers said around 30% of the waste would come from balance-of-system solar array components.

The study was carried out by Ayush Gautam and Ravi Shankar, from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and Prem Vrat, from The NorthCap University, in Gurgaon, Their findings have been published in the journal Sustainable Production and Consumption.

According to the authors of the paper, the 2.95 billion tons of PV system waste would include critical metals worth around $645 trillion (INR46936 lakh crore), of which around 70% – $452 trillion worth – could be recycled.

In the recent past, technological advances in the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector have accelerated, leading to managerial problems for the end-of-life (EOL) disposal of solar photovoltaic e-waste. Developed countries have initiated management systems while India is presently in the photovoltaic panel installation stage, with no concrete strategy to manage the resulting e-waste.

This study undertakes an assessment of the magnitude of the issue in India, using a forecasting model that projects the amount of waste generated by EOL solar PV panels and its balance of system (BOS) using Weibull reliability function for panel failure. The study also estimates the amount of raw material recovered after recycling to contribute to the circular economy of EOL PV.

In the study, an empirical estimation shows that solar PV installations in India will generate 347.5 GW by 2030. The model evaluates that between 2020 and 2047, about 2.95 billion tonnes of e-waste will be generated in India from solar PV systems, including critical metals worth 645 trillion USD, of which 70% (worth 452 trillion USD) can be recovered using state-of-the-art recycling technology. The present study sheds light on maximizing resource efficiency, by creating facilities for a circular economy-based supply chain to handle the massive e-waste generated by solar PV panels in India.

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