Technoeconomic Analysis of High-Value, Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Module Recycling Processes

Hao Cui, Garvin Heath, Timothy Remo, Dwarakanath Ravikumar, Timothy Silverman, Michael Deceglie, Michael Kempe, Jill Engel-Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus Citations


Recycling is an important circular economy strategy, and for photovoltaics (PV), the one that has received the greatest research attention. Recycling of PV modules is required in Europe; everywhere else it competes in the market of end-of-life options, where cost is a primary decision factor. The vast majority of PV modules sold globally are crystalline-silicon (c-Si); most of the rest of the market are cadmium telluride thin film modules whose primary manufacturer runs its own commercial-scale recycling program. While many different c-Si recycling approaches and technologies have been proposed, they generally lack accompanying cost estimates or enough process information to model costs. Herein we develop detailed estimates of seven categories of capital and operating costs along with estimates of revenue from recovered materials for each step in two proposed recycling processes for c-Si PV modules. Using these results, we develop a hypothetical third recycling process merging process steps from the original two, estimate surcharges required to achieve minimum sustainable prices for each recycling process, as well as consider how economies of scale could reduce costs. Increasing the purity of and identifying higher-value markets for recovered materials are approaches to reducing costs and increasing recycling rates in voluntary markets.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 111592
Number of pages6
JournalSolar Energy Materials and Solar Cells
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A50-79130


  • Crystalline silicon
  • Economic feasibility
  • Photovoltaic
  • Recycling
  • Solar


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