Does Future Grid consider materials sustainability and technology...

It’s not a core focus of the project, however the project is aware of the issue and acknowledges its significance as part of the longer-term deployment of renewables.

The Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy was involved in a study led by Charles Darwin University which investigated the problems of solar waste. The study recognised that solar panels were generally not designed to be repaired or dismantled, and this was an area for the industry to consider. The study also found there was an unwillingness to pass on recycling costs to the consumer. The researchers recommended a collaborative approach to addressing this issue, with responsibility shared between government, industry and consumers. Amongst other recommendations, the report said solar panels should not be landfilled; and policy or guidelines around collection, transport, stockpiling and disposal should be clarified. The full report can be read on the Alice Springs Future Grid knowledge bank.

In addition, numerous studies, including reports from Yale University, have found that while there are greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of low-carbon energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines; the impacts pale in comparison with the emissions prevented through the displacement of fossil fuel power generation. It takes around two years to pay off the “embedded energy” in a solar panel; while the panel itself is likely to produce clean energy for up to 25 years, saving almost 250 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.