CIRCUSOL: Solar power business models towards a circular economy in…
The unprecedented growth of photovoltaic (PV) deployment (from about 200 GW of global installed capacity by 2015 to 4500 GW expected by 2050) (IRENA, 2016) raises the question of what is to be done with increasing levels of photovoltaic module waste at end of life (EOL). Mature panels are not the only issue, though. It has been shown that many PV installations are replaced before the end of their theoretical lifetime to take advantage of higher efficiency yields resulting from technological improvements.
A similar situation is foreseen for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) from electric vehicles, which, at the end of their automotive life, can serve as stationary energy storage units for renewable energy sources. Just as with PV panels, waste projections for decommissioned EV batteries are alarmingly high for the next decade.
One of the strategies being investigated by the CIRCUSOL consortium concerns the refurbishment of decommissioned, failed or degraded PV modules for their recommissioning as second-life products. It is estimated that up to 80% of the PV waste stream will consist of product defects caused during production and transportation, or of infant failures taking place over the first four years of the panels’ operational life, instead of products that have reached the end of their designed technical life. In a recent publication, IMEC, one of CIRCUSOL's partners, estimated that about 45%‐65% of the retired PV modules can be repaired/refurbished and commercialized as 2nd life panels.
A second important strategy promoted by CIRCUSOL aims at removing the barriers for the use of second-life EV batteries as renewable energy storage units. To achieve this goal, consortium partners are working towards improving the batteries remanufacturing technologies at the cell level and developing labelling and certification protocols to boost market confidence.
Using a system dynamics simulation model for scenario and policy analysis
The Bern University of Applied Sciences, with the support of its institute on Industrial Engineering and Management, will develop a mathematical model to identify the dynamics created by the material/information flows in the different stages of the PV and LIBs life cycle, including manufacturing, inventory, transportation, installation, business models for 1st and 2nd life use, collection, and recycling.
The simulation model, based on the system dynamics methodology, is aimed at scenario and policy analysis and will account for legal, social, technical, environmental, and economic drivers and barriers of circular economic business models. It is estimated the model will be capable of evaluating the long-term (i.e., 25-40 years) impact of policy interventions on relevant circular economy KPIs.