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The three-year Renew research project has now been launched. The aim is to test used solar modules more effectively and with a high throughput, as well as to develop new repair options in order to reduce the amount of waste. In the project, the project partners are defining new standards for the characterisation of used modules. This offers a high utilisation potential. In addition to ZSW Baden-Württemberg, the companies involved include 2nd Life Solar and Hawe Engineering.

70 per cent of the old modules are directly operational

The extensive experience with field-aged modules at the ZSW solar laboratory Solab shows that hardly any performance degradation can be seen in the majority of modules, even after more than 20 years of operation. This is particularly true for locations with a temperate climate such as Central Europe. According to the experience of project partner 2nd Life Solar, around 70 per cent of the discarded modules are currently still directly operational.

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In order to further improve these figures, the project is also qualifying various repair solutions. In addition, old modules must be disposed of properly. The research team is therefore focussing on the principle of the circular economy. Before the modules are recycled, however, their functionality is checked. If this is the case, the module can be reused directly.

2nd Life Solar already sells used modules

One project partner that already carries out quality checks on used photovoltaic modules and resells field-aged modules after extensive testing is 2nd Life Solar. The company intends to further expand its concept to meet the growing demand. Such scaling requires robust process standards for mobile and stationary quality tests.

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By scaling up the processes, the project partners hope to reduce the amount of untested e-waste that is transported abroad. The ZSW is the project coordinator for Renew. With the Solab solar laboratory, it has many years of experience with field-aged modules. The tests carried out at ZSW deal with the degradation of modules, backsheet analysis and material analysis. (nhp/mfo)