Full Recovery End Life Photovoltaic

Technical Progress – september 2015

September 2015

The test phase was completed in July 2015 and at the beginning of October the progress report will be presented to the European Commission.

On September 25, 2015 was held at the Laghetto Gabella of Curino a seminar to present the progress of the project. At this link you can download the conference presentations and see some photos of the day.

The initial phases of the project were as follows:

I-    Posting mechanical robot of aluminum profiles, connectors, glass and sandwiches (RAC + REV)

II-   Pyrolysis Eva II to recover the silicon metal and other metals (PES)

III-  Leaching acid by filtration to separate the silicon from other metals (ALF)

IV-   Electrolysis IV to recover copper and silver and neutralization treatment of acid water (OME)

At the end of the trial, because of the presence of fluorinated plastic in the sandwich, it had to abandon the pyrolysis process, which would have resulted in emissions of fluorine with the fuels cracking, and it is opted for the incineration of the sandwich, to be performed at a external company that has already given an initial availability of maximum (Phase TES).

In practice, the results of the experiment possible to confirm the validity of the initial project, with the only variant of incineration instead of pyrolysis.

They have already been pre-built prototypes of some components of Phase I, and now, on the basis of the overall results obtained in the trial, would like to start the realization of the complete project, for which the use of acquiring:

  • the waste code for the conferment of the panels;
  • the code for the treatment of residues of the bottom of the treatment of waste to energy;
  • the authorization to the construction of the pilot plant, and in particular of phases III and IV, as for phase I is of purely mechanical treatments, while the phase III is an operation to make the outside.

The ultimate impact expected from this project is shown schematically in the following mass flow:

FRELP MASS FLOW (15.09.15)

and can be thus summarized:

every 1.000 kg of input panels are obtained:

–          180 kg of aluminum metal to sell on the market;

–          10 kg of connectors to give the WEEE;

–          700 kg of white glass of high quality for sale on the market;

–          36,5 kg of silicon metal to be recovered by filtration after leaching and for sale in the metallurgical sector;

–          1,67 kg of copper and silver recovered at cathodes electrolysis and for sale on the market;

–          120 kg of calcium nitrate in aqueous solution to the silo to be used as fertilizer in agriculture;

The total yield of these components is 93% and the loss is represented by 6% from plastics intended for combustion and residual recovered metals as hydroxides.

By contrast, we have the following environmental impact:

  • 20 kg: production of hydroxides of various metals (tin, aluminum, lead, zinc) to be disposed of in landfill as waste;
  • 2 kg: NOx emissions to the anode of the electrolysis (to be verified);
  • 5 kg: production (at the waste to energy plant) of ash resulting from the reduction in special fluorine with sodium bicarbonate and/or calcium carbonate, at the waste to energy plant (to be verified).

It must be said that there is currently no industrial technology that allows to achieve a yield of 93% and that the problem of disposing of the photovoltaic panels will have a major impact as early as 2017.

The pilot plant which is planned will have the processing capacity of 1 t/hour of photovoltaic panels to a maximum of 8.000 t/year.

According to forecasts in the draft, submitted for approval to the Province of Biella the 29th September 2015, the plant should be active from 2017.

Press release – FRELP PROJECT CONFERENCE 25.09.2015

Sasil S.p.A., Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro and PV Cycle are working on a 4 years project to test and demonstrate the application of innovative technologies for integral recycling of end-of-life PV  panels, mono and poly-crystalline in an economically and viable way.

The partnership wished to share with stakeholders the first important milestone achieved: having found the technological solutions for every step of the treatment process and translated into a technically and economically feasible industrial process design.

To this end, on the 25th of September, a conference took place at the visitors centre of Laghetto Gabella in Curino (Biella, Italy), in the past a feldspar mine transformed in a prestigious natural area.

During the conference have been proposed four solutions with low environmental impact for the recovery of the following components:

  • Automatically recovery of aluminum profiles;
  • Recovery of high quality extra clear glass, to be employed in hollow and flat glass industry, implying very significant energy and CO2 emission saving in the glass melting process;
  • Recovery of (metallic) silicon, to be employed as ferrosilicon in iron silicon alloys, thus saving important energy cost and CO2emission  for the production of primary silicon;
  • Recovery of silver by electrolysis.

The actual situation concerning the collection of end-of-life PV panels has been illustrated by PV Cycle’s Olmina Della Monica. It appears that the conferment of such panels saw a significant drawback since 2012 when incentives in Europe for the substitution of old panels were strongly reduced. This drawback is expected to imply a delay in the need for technologies for their disposal with several years.

PV_CYVLE Olmina Della Monica

Gian Andrea Blengini of the JRC – Institute for Environment and Sustainability presented the life cycle assessment performed on the FRELP process, showing the important improvements that can be achieved with respect to actually available technologies. He highlighted as well the important contribution the project can offer to the EU Draft Ecodesign Working Plan 2016, identifying the constraints that actual product design imply for the full recovery of the panels and that could be improved by producers. As such, in particular the use of fluorine content in the panel’s back-sheet should be abandoned to permit an environmentally and economically optimal recovery process.

JRC ISPRA Gian Andrea Blengini

Lodovico Ramon, project manager of FRELP, then illustrated the objectives of the project and the 4 phases of the treatment process that will be piloted next year. He extensively revealed the environmental achievements that are expected, as well as the employment opportunities that would derive from exploitation of the treatment process.

SASIL Lodovico Ramon

At this point, and before presenting more in detail the main technologies to be experimented, Sandro Hreglich of the Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro explained in detail how PV panels are constituted, underlining the high variability of the materials involved and their respective amounts. The explanation made clear which materials can be recovered (glass, silver, alumina, silicon) and what are the main difficulties to do so.

SSV Sandro Hreglich

After the coffee break Sasil consultant Piero Ercole explained in detail the various technologies studied, simulated and trialed to separate the glass from the polymer-based adhesive encapsulation layer (called EVA) and showed the identified best technology translated into a pre-prototype that offered excellent results. He proceeded with an exposure of the further treatment of this EVA, originally foreseen to be submitted to pyrolysis, but, due to environmental constraints, at last transformed in ashes by means of controlled combustion. This process was trialed by the Stazione Sperimentale del Combustibile.

SASIL Dott. Piero Ercole

Lastly, Stefano Ceola explained the audience how from these ashes metals will be recovered.

SSV Stefano Ceola

Next step of the project regards the realisation of prototype equipment to trial the findings on a significant scale (1 ton PV panels per hour). The construction is expected to be performed during 2016 after obtainment of the needed authorisations, while pilot operation is foreseen in 2017.

Frelp Conference 2015

Si ringrazia @MicheleGiorgioPhotography per le foto.




Qui di seguito è possibile scaricare i pdf delle presentazioni dei relatori durante la conferenza:

1- PV CYCLE – Olmina DELLA MONICA – Collection, selection, distribution of EOL PV panels

2- CE DG-JRC – Gian Andrea BLENGINI – Treatment process of EOL PV panels

3- SASIL – Lodovico RAMON – FRELP Project presentation

4- SSV – Sandro HREGLICH – Characterization and variability of EOL PV panels

5- SASIL – Piero ERCOLE – PV panel glass detachment

6- SASIL – Piero ERCOLE – Controlled pyrolysis-combustion of sandwich

7- SSV – Stefano CEOLA – Metals recovery from ashes from controlled combustion


For further information:

Lodovico Ramon, managing director Sasil S.p.A.

Tel: 39015985261
Fax: 39015985980