Circular solar trials

Program snapshot

Category: Circular solar trials

Amounts:  A total of $1.1 million has been awarded to date.

Eligible bodies: Business, not-for-profit organisations, councils, research institutions, government agencies and organisations.

Contact: Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Unit by phone on (02) 9895 6486 or infrastructure.grants@epa.nsw.gov.au       

Status: Trial projects were announced in August 2021. Phase 2 funding will open in September 2021.

Managed by: NSW Environment Protection Authority

Aims

It is forecast that NSW will generate 3,000 - 10,000 tonnes per year of waste solar PV panels and battery storage systems by 2025, rising to 40,000 – 71,000 tonnes per year by 2035. To prepare for this emerging waste stream, the Circular solar trials grant program supports collaborative ‘whole-of-supply chain’ projects that trial managing end-of-life solar panels and/or battery systems within a circular economy framework.

Available funding

The NSW Government has created a $10 million fund to reduce landfilling of solar panels and battery systems. This investment is intended to future-proof the management of this growing waste stream and help NSW transition to renewable energy sources within a circular economy.

The first phase of the Circular Solar Trials grants program (trial phase) awarded $1.1 million in funding for eligible projects. 

Phase 2 Circular Solar funding

Further funding opportunities will be offered in September 2021. Priorities for future funding rounds will likely include

  • scaling up of programs
  • new recycling and/or reuse infrastructure
  • collection models
  • research
  • market development

Grant recipients (trial phase)

Blue Tribe Co. Pty. Limited
$217,800
The Second-Life Solar project will establish a small community-based solar garden using decommissioned yet serviceable solar panels, that would otherwise have been destined for landfill.

The project will develop a business model and testing methodology to activate a secondary marketplace for decommissioned solar panels. This will extend the solar panels service life, offer an alternative to premature waste disposal of decommissioned panels, divert serviceable solar panels from landfill, provide clean energy and a source of income to solar gardeners, and contribute to NSW’s renewable energy target.

KGM Services trading as The Solar Professionals
$935,750
The project, Repurposing, recycling and upcycling of solar PV cells via delamination, will drive the accelerated deployment of sustainable end to end solution of solar cells. This will be done through panel testing, collection and distribution that allows for re-use of functional cells in domestic and international markets. Unfunctional solar cells will be delaminated into uncontaminated solar cell components, which will be designed, engineered, constructed and trialled in collaboration with Deakin University and a glass delamination expert. The product of the glass and frame will be trailed as a construction material in commercial glasshouses.

Circular solar trials application process (trial phase)

The Circular solar trials grants program (trial phase) was conducted in two stages:

Stage 1
Applicants completed the expression of interest (EOI) stage 1 form outlining the proposed project, including activities to be delivered and partners who will participate in the delivery of the project. Applications were assessed by an independent technical review committee (TRC) who recommended a shortlist of projects to progress to stage 2.

Stage 2
Only applicants who were shortlisted after stage 1 were invited to apply for stage 2. Applicants had four weeks from notification of their shortlisting in stage 1 to develop their final project plan, formalise networks and complete a detailed budget. The TRC assessed the final applications and accompanying documents against the stage 2 criteria and recommended projects for funding.

Full eligibility criteria for the Circular Solar Trials program (trial phase) is detailed in the application forms and guidelines.

Background information and research findings

While volumes of waste solar panels and battery storage systems are currently relatively low, this emerging waste stream is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade as installed systems reach their end of life.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commissioned a scoping study (PDF 3.8MB) to assist in development of the EPA’s end-of-life solar programs. It contains information that may help organisations preparing EOIs, including:

  • projected waste generation volumes
  • materials that can be recovered from solar panels and batteries
  • reuse and recycling technologies
  • end-market opportunities.
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