This con­tent has been writ­ten by the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy in col­lab­o­ra­tion with engi­neers and oth­er ener­gy indus­try experts with­in the Con­sor­tium Mem­ber organ­i­sa­tions of Alice Springs Future Grid, and on occa­sion, Project Asso­ciates. Please sub­mit your ques­tions, which will be answered in due course and shared on this plat­form if rel­e­vant and appro­pri­ate. You will be noti­fied via email when the answer is post­ed. Terms and con­di­tions are detailed on the sub­mit a ques­tion page. 

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What happens to solar panels at the end of their life?

This is a subject of much discussion and study, and is even the focus of a current Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding opportunity. It does pose a looming waste management issue, with the design life of solar panels at 20 to 30 years, and many installed well over a decade ago. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates there could be 60 to 78 million tons of photovoltaic panel waste accumulated globally by 2050. It also estimates the recyclable materials will be worth $15bn in recoverable value.

It is envisaged that recycling solar panels will create industry and employment opportunities, keep valuable resources out of landfill, help to retain rare elements, and prevent heavy metals leaching into the environment. There are a couple of companies working in this space in Australia.

How do I find a reputable installer for my PV system?

All reputable installers will be registered with the Clean Energy Council. You can find out more in the Consumer section of its website.

How can we export solar?

Plans are underway to build the world’s largest solar farm in the Northern Territory’s Barkly region, exporting the power via a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable. The $20bn project, known as SunCable, plans to send most of the power to Singapore, which relies on LNG for the majority of its electricity.

Producing green hydrogen (via renewable energy processes as opposed to fossil fuels) is another way to export solar. A National Hydrogen Strategy was developed by the COAG Energy Ministers and released in November 2019. It highlights the opportunity in the NT, given its proximity to Asia, and recommends a focus on exports and enhancing energy security in remote areas, amongst other market ideas.

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