Old panels cast shadow over rooftop solar love affair

Local councils have warned of a looming environmental crisis if governments fail to come up with a way of properly disposing of hundreds of thousands of old rooftop solar panels.

Oct 19, 2020, updated Oct 19, 2020
Reliance on renewable energy has hit record levels in southern states. (Photo: Queensland Government)

Reliance on renewable energy has hit record levels in southern states. (Photo: Queensland Government)

Councils say that they are being forced to get rid of old panels through landfill, with very few being recycled once they come to the end of their useful life.

The issue also featured in the Queensland election campaign, with LNP leader Deb Frecklington promising to establish a solar panel recycling plant in the state if her party won the October 31 poll.

The issue is set to be debated this week at the Local Government Association’s annual conference on the Gold Coast.

Both Toowoomba and Southern Downs regional councils have lodged formal motions calling for reforms to management of waste solar panels at the Local Government Association of Queensland’s annual conference on the Gold Coast this week.

Ms Frecklington said an LNP government would seek to establish a solar panel recycling facility through a reverse auction to help deal with an estimated 100,000 tonnes of old solar panels in Australia by 2035.

She said the LNP also planned to ban all batteries and electronic goods – including TVs and laptops – from going into landfill.

“We will also work with councils to build major roads from recycled plastic for the first time,” she said.

The Clean Energy Regulator estimates there are more than 2.5 million rooftop solar systems that have been installed in Australia – nearly one in four households in Australia have installed rooftop solar power panels.

Rooftop solar now accounts for more than 5 percent of the national electricity market, with authorities forecasting system installations could double or triple over the next 20 years.

The Clean Energy Council has said rooftop solar has become so popular that an average of six panels a minute are being installed in Australia.

However, councils are becoming worried that they will be stuck with a mountain of obsolete solar panels headed to landfill unless the state and federal governments act.

They are likely to demand the state and federal governments fast track a “product stewardship scheme” which would place more responsibility on manufacturers to deal with the disposal of obsolete solar panels.

Similar schemes have worked well in ensuring the proper disposal of agricultural chemicals and electronic items such as televisions.

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