PV Module Design for Recycling Guidelines: IEA PVPS Task 12: PV Sustainability

Jose Bilbao, Garvin Heath, Alex Norgren, Marina Lunardi, Alberta Carpenter, Richard Corkish

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The global growth of clean energy technology deployment will be inexorably followed by a parallel growth of end-of-life (EOL) products that bring both challenges and opportunities. Cumulatively, by 2050, estimates project 78 million tonnes of raw materials embodied in the mass of EOL photovoltaic (PV) modules. Owing partly to concern that the projected growth of clean energy technologies could become constrained by availability of raw materials, despite ongoing dematerialization efforts, significant attention under the umbrella of circular economy has been brought to recycling these technologies at EOL. Yet PV has not been designed with recycling at EOL in mind, and it presents challenges to returning embodied raw materials back to use in new products through recycling. This study aims to inform future designs to improve recyclability through synthesis of prior published works augmented by novel recommendations that result in a set of general design for recycling (DfR) guidelines, with a subset specific to PV modules. We further discuss how established trends in design of PV modules could affect recyclability. If adopted today, application of these DfR guidelines could help to mitigate tomorrow's resource scarcity, lower the barriers and cost for PV recycling, and enable a circular economy during the energy transition.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages42
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

NREL's Garvin Heath is a task manager of IEA PVPS Task 12

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-80984

Other Report Number

  • Report IEA-PVPS T12-23:2021


  • circular economy
  • circularity
  • panel
  • photovoltaic


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