India’s solar waste may reach 340kt by 2030: Report | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India’s solar waste may reach 340kt by 2030: Report

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi
Mar 21, 2024 07:22 AM IST

Around 67% of this solar waste is expected to be generated in five states: Rajasthan (24%), Gujarat (16%), Karnataka (12%), Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

India’s installed solar energy capacity reached 66.7 gigawatts (GW) as of 2023, but the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a leading think tank, has warned that this rapid growth has already generated about 100 kilotonnes (kt) of solar waste, which is expected to increase to 340 kt by 2030.

Solar panels at Duhai Depot RRTS station in Ghaziabad. (PTI)
Solar panels at Duhai Depot RRTS station in Ghaziabad. (PTI)

The study comes as India aims to achieve 50% of its installed power capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030, as per its updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Solar energy is expected to play a crucial role in meeting this target.

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“As India expands its renewable capacity to go net-zero, cumulative waste from its existing and new solar energy capacity (deployed between FY24 and FY30) could reach up to 600 kilotonnes by 2030 — equivalent to filling up 720 Olympic-size swimming pools,” the CEEW study said.

Around 67% of this waste is expected to be generated in five states: Rajasthan (24%), Gujarat (16%), Karnataka (12%), Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

“India must proactively address solar waste, not just as an environmental imperative but as a strategic necessity for ensuring energy security and building a circular economy,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW.

“As we witness the remarkable growth of solar from only 4 GW in March 2015 to 73 GW in December 2023, robust recycling mechanisms become increasingly crucial. They safeguard renewable ecosystems, create green jobs, enhance mineral security, foster innovation, and build resilient, circular supply chains,” Ghosh added.

Solar waste refers to both discarded modules as well as scrap generated during the cell- and module-manufacturing processes. Modules can be discarded either when solar photovoltaic modules reach the end of their functional life or if they are damaged.

Improper handling of solar waste and landfilling should be avoided to reclaim valuable minerals and safeguard the environment from leaching of toxic materials like lead and cadmium, the study recommended.

CEEW also suggested that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) maintain and periodically update a database of installed solar capacity, and the Union Environment Ministry issue guidelines for collecting and storing solar waste.

Solar waste can be recycled to recover materials like glass, aluminium, copper, silicon, and silver through mechanical, thermal, and chemical processes, helping to recover critical minerals and reduce environmental impact.

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