A $10 million New South Wales government grant scheme has been launched to tackle the problem looming on the other side of Australia’s booming solar uptake – what to do with hundreds of millions of PV panels when they reach the end of their working lives.
The Liberal Berejiklian government on Thursday called for Expressions of Interest for a total of $2 million in grants to run trial projects that increase the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems.
The first round of the grant scheme is targeted at projects that trial whole of supply chain approaches to collecting and reusing and/or recycling, with applications open until September 17.
The NSW EPA director of circular economy, Kathy Giunta, said the investment in recycling through the Circular Solar grants program would help NSW meet its commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“While current amounts of waste are low, now is the time to invest in developing systems for collecting and recycling these valuable resources like scarce and rare metals, including lithium batteries,” Giunta said.
“We want to recycle and re-use the materials in solar panels and battery systems as NSW transitions towards cleaner energy and this program is an important step in building a productive circular economy in NSW.
“It will see NSW well placed to manage waste solar systems over the coming years and will stimulate much needed job creation in the solar power and recycling sectors,” she said.
The move by NSW follows a similar funding round from the federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency late last year, when ARENA put forward $15 million to support projects aimed at cutting the cost and amount of waste created by used solar panels.
Battery recycling has also been on the radar, with a 2018 CSIRO report forecasting that Australia could develop a lithium-ion battery recycling industry worth upwards of $3 billion a year by the mid-2030s.