Photovoltaics in the Circular Economy
NREL applies its long-standing expertise in modeling and analysis to photovoltaics (PV) in the circular economy, supporting the sustainability of PV technologies.
Through its circular economy modeling and analysis capabilities, NREL has led numerous path-breaking studies. For instance, it has systematically reviewed all PV circular economy literature, identified prioritized future R&D strategies for PV recycling, and analyzed circular economy outcomes of aggressive solar deployment scenarios for its Solar Futures Study.
Also, it continues to grow a body of literature mapping policy approaches to increasing circularity of PV and leads the International Energy Agency's Technology Collaboration Programme on PV Sustainability, where several of the below publications and others can be found. Improving circular economy can lead to more sustainable solar technologies.
Models and Tools
NREL has developed models of the PV circular economy, which can continue to be enhanced and applied in novel ways and applications. The PV in the Circular Economy Tool dynamically models both materials demands and end-of-life materials for PV installations over time and can evaluate trade-offs among circular economy pathways. NREL has also applied new analytical approaches to consider social factors in better mapping future PV circular economy pathways.
Find NREL-authored publications about the circular economy of PV.
|A Critical Review of the Circular Economy for Lithium-Ion Batteries and Photovoltaic Modules – Status, Challenges, and Opportunities||2022||G. Heath, D. Ravikumar, B. Hansen, E. Kupets||Journal Article||Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association|
|Technoeconomic Analysis of High-Value, Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Module Recycling Processes||2022||H. Cui, G. Heath, T. Remo, D. Ravikumar, T. Silverman, M. Deceglie, M. Kempe, J. Engel-Cox||Journal Article||Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells|
|Mapping the Opportunity Space to Model the Circular Economy Using Tools Funded by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy||2022||S. Upasani, J. Walzberg, D. Ravikumar, A. Carpenter, G. Heath, U. Gracida-Alvarez, T. Benavides, H. Xu, T. Hawkins, D. Desantis, J. Cresko||Technical Report||NREL|
|Environmental and Circular Economy Implications of Solar Energy in a Decarbonized U.S. Grid||2022||G. Heath, D. Ravikumar, S. Ovaitt, L. Walston, T. Curtis, D. Millstein, H. Mirletz, H. Hartmann, J. McCall||Technical Report||NREL|
|Role of the Social Factors in Success of Solar Photovoltaic Reuse and Recycle Programmes||2021||J. Walzberg, A. Carpenter, G. Heath||Journal Article||Nature Energy|
|A Survey of Federal and State-Level Solar System Decommissioning Policies in the United States||2021||T.L. Curtis, L.E.P. Smith, H. Buchanan, G. Heath||Technical Report||NREL|
|Preliminary Environmental and Financial Viability Analysis of Circular Economy Scenarios for Satisfying PV System Service Lifetime||2021||N. Rajagopalan, A. Smeets, K. Peeters, S. De Regel, T. Rommens, K. Wang, P. Stolz, R. Frischknecht, G. Heath, D. Ravikumar||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|PV Module Design for Recycling Guidelines||2021||J. Bilbao, G. Heath, A. Norgren, M. Lunardi, A. Carpenter, R. Corkish||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. State Policies and Initiatives||2021||T.L. Curtis, H. Garvin, H. Buchanan, L. Smith, S. Shaw||Technical Report||NREL|
|A Circular Economy for Solar Photovoltaic System Materials: Drivers, Barriers, Enablers, and U.S. Policy Considerations||2021||T.L. Curtis, H. Buchanan, L. Smith, H. Garvin||Technical Report||NREL|
|Best Practices at the End of the Photovoltaic System Performance Period||2021||T.L. Curtis, G. Heath, A. Walker, J. Desai, E. Settle, C. Barbosa||Technical Report||NREL|
|Design for Recycling Principles Applicable to Selected Clean Energy Technologies: Crystalline-Silicon Photovoltaic Modules, Electric Vehicle Batteries, and Wind Turbine Blades||2020||A. Norgren, A. Carpenter, G. Heath||Journal Article||Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy|
|Research and Development Priorities for Silicon Photovoltaic Module Recycling to Support a Circular Economy||2020||G. Heath, T. Silverman, M. Kempe, M. Deceglie, D. Ravikumar, T. Remo, H. Cui, P. Sinha, C. Libby, S. Shaw, K. Komoto, K. Wambach, E. Butler, T. Barnes, A. Wade||Journal Article||Nature Energy|
|Human Health Risk Assessment Methods for PV | Part 3: Module Disposal Risks||2020||P. Sinha, G. Heath, A. Wade, K. Komoto||Technical Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|Life Cycle Inventory of Current Photovoltaic Module Recycling Processes in Europe||2018||K. Wambach, G. Heath, C. Libby||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|Life Cycle Assessment of Current Photovoltaic Module Recycling||2018||P. Stolz, R. Frischknecht, K. Wambach, P. Sinha, G. Heath||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|End-of-Life Management of Photovoltaic Panels: Trends in PV Module Recycling Technologies||2018||K. Komoto, J. Lee, J. Zhang, D. Ravikumar, P. Sinha, A. Wade, G. Heath||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme||IEA PVPS|
|End-of-Life Management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels||2016||S. Weckend, A. Wade, G. Heath||Report||International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme; International Renewable Energy Agency||IEA PVPS, IRENA|
|PV in the Circular Economy, A Dynamic Framework Analyzing Technology Evolution and Reliability Impacts||2022||S. Ovaitt, H. Mirletz, S. Sridhar, T. Barnes||Journal Article||iScience|
|Embodied Energy and Carbon from the Manufacture of Cadmium Telluride and Silicon Photovoltaics||2022||H. Wikoff, S. Reese, M. Reese||Journal Article||Joule|
|Techno-Economic, Environmental, and Social Measurement of Clean Energy Technology Supply Chains||2022||J. Engel-Cox, H. Wikoff, S. Reese||Journal Article||Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing|
|PV Evolution in the Light of Circular Economy||2021||S. Ovaitt, H. Mirletz, A. Hegedus, A. Gaulding, T. Barnes||Conference Paper||48th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference|