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While the typical lifetime of a PV module is 25-30 years, there are cases where PV modules get decommissioned from PV systems before they reach their end-of-life stage. There are various reasons for PV modules to be removed from PV systems. In some instances, modules are uninstalled for business reasons, say, due to a change of property ownership or closure of a site. In other cases, owners may decide to upgrade their modules for better efficiency. Especially for early retired modules that are still functional, reuse should be the first option to explore to make the solar industry more circular and sustainable. In this post, we will look at the overview of the PV reuse market.

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How many PV modules are being reused today?

  • A 2021 study by PV CYCLE and imec/EnergyVille projects that around fifteen companies are operating in the PV reuse market and that the estimated market size is somewhere between 500 and 600 MWp / year; however, the exact trade volume cannot be easily determined due to a lack of registration of PV site decommissioning and PV resell markets[1].
  • In a 2020 report on the North American PV market, CSA Group states that, although statistical data does not exist, interview results with experts indicate that, on average, 25% of the used modules get prepared for secondary use and export to overseas markets[2].

How many PV modules can be reused?

  • In Queensland, Australia, test results by Reclaim PV Recycling indicated that over 31% of used PV modules could potentially be reused instead of recycled[3].
  • In North America, interviews conducted by the CSA Group suggest that up to 70% of used PV modules may have the potential for reuse or refurbishment[2].

What are the processes required to reuse PV modules?

Reuse of PV modules requires less cost and involves fewer steps compared with recycling. A study by Arizona State University researchers found that among the three scenarios of PV module end-of-life management—PV module reuse, component extraction and material extraction—PV module reuse yields the highest revenue while requiring the fewest processing procedures[4].

The CSA Group suggests the following test procedure to determine the reusability of PV modules:

1) Documentation of general module information (i.e., dimension, type, number of cells, nominal electrical data, and serial number)

2) Visual inspection (results to be documented on the data sheet)

3) Electrical test (results to be documented on the data sheet)

4) Submission of the document to the buyer and, where needed, to authorities[2]

Are there any regulations or standards to promote the reuse of PV modules?

  • In 2021, Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) began a process of adding PV modules to the R2 Standard, a global standard for repairing, reusing and recycling used electronics developed by SERI[5].
  • In Japan, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) published a guideline in 2021 to promote the proper reuse of PV modules. Though not mandatory, this guideline aims to set a standardized practice for module reuse, including testing, inspection and documentation of used PV modules[6].
  • In Australia, Reclaim PV Recycling and the Circular PV Alliance signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2022 to co-develop standards and testing procedures to boost reuse and resale of PV modules[3].

Although the PV module reuse market is still nascent, facilitating the reuse option is crucial in achieving a circular economy for PV modules. Regulations and standards more specific to PV module reuse can encourage the secondary use of PV modules. Furthermore, more accurate data collection on PV module reuse can help identify the challenges and needs of the reuse market. To learn more about PV module end-of-life options and recycling, check out our posts.


[1] PV CYCLE and Imec, “RE-USE of PV modules, challenges and opportunities of the circular economy.” https://pvcycle.be/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release-Reuse-08032021.pdf (accessed Jan. 24, 2023).

[2] K. Wambach, K. Baumann, M. Seitz, B. Mertvoy, and B. Reinelt, “Photovoltaic (PV) Recycling, Reusing, and Decommissioning — Current Landscape and Opportunities for Standardization,” 2020.

[3] Reclaim PV and Circular PV Alliance (CPVA), “Reclaim PV Recycling & Circular PV Alliance sign milestone MOU to drive the reuse and resale of solar panels and enhance the solar energy circular economy.” https://www.circularpv.com.au/_files/ugd/10e921_9d64c02665e94882acf262ad19676d60.pdf (accessed Jan. 24, 2023).

[4] M. Tao et al., “Major challenges and opportunities in silicon solar module recycling,” Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 1077–1088, Oct. 2020, doi: 10.1002/pip.3316.

[5] SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International), “R2 Solar Update.” https://sustainableelectronics.org/r2-solar-update/ (accessed Jan. 24, 2023).

[6] Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, “太陽電池モジュールの 適正なリユース促進ガイドライン,” 2021.

Author: Saki Kobayashi / 小林 さき