Research and Development Priorities for Silicon Photovoltaic Module Recycling to Support a Circular Economy

Garvin Heath, Timothy Silverman, Michael Kempe, Michael Deceglie, Dwarakanath Ravikumar, Timothy Remo, Hao Cui, Parikhit Sinha, Cara Libby, Stephanie Shaw, Keiichi Komoto, Karsten Wambach, Evelyn Butler, Teresa Barnes, Andreas Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus Citations


Large-scale deployment of photovoltaic (PV) modules has considerably increased in recent decades. Given an estimated lifetime of 30 years, the challenge of how to handle large volumes of end-of-life PV modules is starting to emerge. In this Perspective, we assess the global status of practice and knowledge for end-of-life management for crystalline silicon PV modules. We focus in particular on module recycling, a key aspect in the circular economy of photovoltaic panels. We recommend research and development to reduce recycling costs and environmental impacts compared to disposal while maximizing material recovery. We suggest that the recovery of high-value silicon is more advantageous than the recovery of intact silicon wafers. This approach requires the identification of contaminants and the design of purification processes for recovered silicon. The environmental and economic impacts of recycling practices should be explored with techno–economic analyses and life-cycle assessments to optimize solutions and minimize trade-offs. As photovoltaic technology advances rapidly, it is important for the recycling industry to plan adaptable recycling infrastructure.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)502-510
Number of pages9
JournalNature Energy
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-73091


  • c-Si
  • circular economy
  • photovoltaics
  • PV
  • PV modules
  • R&D
  • recycling
  • research and development
  • techno-economic analysis


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