The project

PhotoLife (LIFE13 ENV/IT/001033) is an EU LIFE+ co-funded project with the aim of recovery of glass and main values from end life Photovoltaic panels. Scope of the project is the construction of a pilot plant and the experimentation of the innovative process for the full recovery of different kind of PV panels. Eco Recycling is Coordinator of the project, the designer and the builder of the pilot plant. The project has been started at 1 June 2014.

The dramatic expansion of photovoltaic installations will generate in the next 15-20 years huge amounts of wastes as end of life panels (from 2015 onwards 30.000 ton/year will be available for disposal in Europe and in next 20 years this amount will increase till 500.000 ton/year).

Accordingly European Community included end of life photovoltaic panels in the WEEE directive promoting the development of innovative processes for the recovery of secondary raw materials such as glass, plastics and metals.

Actually processes were developed and patented for manual recovery of specific type of panels, and in particular for crystalline Si or CdTe.

The proposed project will instead focus on a hydrometallurgical approach (avoiding high temperature and energy-consuming treatments), using conventional equipments easily available for common waste collectors, and comprehending all the commercial types of photovoltaic panels: crystalline Si (45-50% of the total market is represented by polycrystalline and 35% by monocrystalline), amorphous Si (5-8% of the market), Cd-Te (8-9%) , CIS and CIGS (2%).

PhotoLife project will aim:

  • to demonstrate in pilot scale the technical feasibility of an innovative process (developed on the base of laboratory scale experiments) for the automated and simultaneous treatment of the three main kinds of photovoltaic panels (crystalline Si, amorphous Si, Cd-Te)
  • to characterize the pilot plant products (glass and metals)
  • to determine the overall economic feasibility of the pilot plant process accounting also for the recovery of electronic equipment (printed circuit boards and other electronic equipment) and plastic

PhotoLife Project has been developed according to the following actions:

1- Elaboration of the existing data

  • B1 Analysis of HTR lab results
  • B2 Estimation of the market trend
  • B3 Preliminary economic feasibility

2- Photovoltaic panels retrieval and characterization

  • B4 Photovoltaic panels retrieval and classification
  • B5 Retrieved panel characterization

3- Process and plant design and realization

  • B6 Process design
  • B7 Pilot plant design (including offer request)
  • B8 Pilot plant construcion (including site preparation and autorization request)

4- Pilot plant experiments

  • B9 Disassembling and physical treatment: optimization using Si- and CdTe- based panels
  • B10 Chemical treatment: optimization usng Si- CdTe-based panels
  • B11 Wastewater treatment: optimization
  • B12 Experiments using innovative photovoltaic panels
  • B13 Product Characterization

5- Economic Analysis

  • B14 Economic analysis and management strategies

6- Lab scale tests with innovative photovoltaic panels (CIS and CIGS)

  • B15 Physical pretreatment and chemical treatment of innovative photovoltaic panels

7- Monitoring phase

  • C1 Environmental assessment of the project impact
    • C1.1 Monitoring of environmental impact
    • C1.2 LCA
    • C1.3 Preliminary environmental impact assessment and financial prevision for the future full scale plants
  • C2 Assessment of socio-economic impacts

8- Dissemination phase

9- Management phase