Solar energy is a growing source of clean, renewable energy around the world.
However, a pressing challenge is the question of what will become of used solar panels at the end of their lifespan. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that by 2050, the world will have 60 million tonnes of cumulative photovoltaic panel waste.
Energy company Sembcorp has partnered Singapore Polytechnic (SP) to address the issue, and commercialise the first-ever technology in Singapore for photovoltaic recycling.
Developed locally by SP researchers, the innovative process recovers resources from used solar panels, such as glass, silicon, and metals including silver and aluminium. A pilot recycling plant will be developed for the used solar panels. Once the technology proves commercially viable, the pilot plant can then serve as a potential prototype for larger-scale recycling of used solar panels in Singapore, and beyond.
Sembcorp and SP are also working together on training and education to build up skilled manpower needed to support the growth of solar energy in Singapore. The two parties will jointly develop course curriculum. The syllabus will provide for polytechnic, internships, as well as continuing education programmes for managers, engineers and technicians working on solar projects.
In a press statement on January 23, SP said that Sembcorp’s knowledge of real-world industry demands and photovoltaic modular designs, installation and operation, will complement SP’s existing course material on solar energy systems and deployment. The parties’ combined expertise will make for training that is robust, practical and highly relevant in the industry.
“In scaling up our solar portfolio, we take a cradle-to-grave approach: not just caring about procurement, design and installation and operation, but even seeing our projects through to the end of their operational lives, and beyond," said Commenting on the occasion, Sembcorp’s Mr Koh. "We believe this focus on responsible resource management is especially timely, given that 2019 has been declared Singapore’s Year Towards Zero Waste. At the same time, we also see a strong need to build up a pool of skilled talent in Singapore, to support future solar projects competently."
Lim Peng Hun, Deputy Principal (Academic) at SP, added, “The collaboration allows us to play a part in keeping Singapore’s workforce relevant to the changing needs of the industry through our robust full-time and continuing education training courses.”