Japan to Recycle Solar Modules Using Blockchain Tech

Highlights :

  • Solar PV manufacturer Next Energy and trading and investment business conglomerate Marubeni are partnering to recycle used solar panels using blockchain technology, as part of a programme supported by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.

  • Mitsubishi Research Institute will also assist the two companies in developing and demonstrating the potential of blockchain in reporting and recording information on the reuse and recycling of used solar cells.

Solar PV manufacturer Next Energy and trading and investment business conglomerate Marubeni are partnering to recycle used solar panels using blockchain technology, as part of a programme supported by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.

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Mitsubishi Research Institute will also assist the two companies in developing and demonstrating the potential of blockchain in reporting and recording information on the reuse and recycling of used solar cells.

This technology should be able to inspect the solar modules and provide data on the traceability and components used, as well as verifying that these data were not modified or tampered with.

This technique is expected to enable the identification of a larger amount of modules that can still be reused or recycled, which would reduce the amount of waste in landfills and, in the case of modules being reused, would also lower their carbon footprint and produce other environmental benefits, says Next Energy.

In Japan, the deployment of solar PV has grown rapidly, in particular over the course of the past decade in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. With their product life of 20 to 30 years, by the mid-2030s approximately 800,000 tons of solar panels will require replacing annually, according to Ministry of Environment data quoted by Next Energy.

Others can be replaced for other reasons such as damage or upgrading.

Next Energy has been undertaking solar PV recycling since 2005, which it operates under the REBORN Technology brand. Among its findings from inspection of over 40,000 used solar cells are that they can retain up to 80% performance after 25 years of use.

The company also is contributing to the drafting of guidelines for solar panel re-sale being developed by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO).

In parallel with the blockchain demonstration, Next Energy also has launched a used solar cell recovery demonstration, again with the support of the Environment Ministry. Solar modules that are no longer needed may be taken to a collection site or will be collected free of charge, from where they will be taken for recycling.

According to a draft of its latest energy policy, renewables in Japan should account for 36-38% of power supplies in 2030, double the level of 18% in the financial year to March 2020. The earlier target was for renewables to contribute 22-24% of electricity in 2030.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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