Who will pay for the cleaning up job?
By 2050, the world will be throwing out 2 million tons of wind turbines and 6 million tons of solar panels every year.
One reason the world may be throwing away so much not-so-renewable waste is that recycling it costs ten times as much as what is recovered.
Who would have thought that collecting low density energy in extreme environments would create megatons of tough, non-biodegradable infrastructure, embedded with toxic heavy metals?
Graveyard of the green giants: It’s the hidden cost of our dash for windpower – thousands of decommissioned blades that are so difficult to recycle, they are just dumped as landfill,
writes TOM LEONARD, DailyMail
Scientists at America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have warned that in the next few decades, the world faces a ‘tidal wave’ of redundant blades that will number ‘hundreds of thousands, if not more’.
By 2050, it’s predicted that the world will need to dispose of two million tons of wind turbine blade waste every year. In the UK, the volume already exceeds 100,000 tons per year.
The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 78 million tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life and the world will create another six million tons of photovoltaic waste every year. Where to put all of that is potentially an even bigger headache than the turbine blades. It’s very complicated to recover the more valuable materials, such as silver and silicon, used in solar panels.
Research suggests the cost of recovering the materials outweighs the cost of extracting what can be reused by a ratio of ten to one. In other words, if the cost of recycling is $10 you get only $1 back.
And unlike wind turbine blades, solar panels contain toxic materials such as lead that can contaminate the ground as they break down, so dumping them in landfill sites poses serious issues.
And what about the lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars? Here, too, there’s a money issue. Japanese researchers say the value of the materials that can be recycled from them is about a third of the cost of the recycling operation, while it’s five times cheaper to mine new lithium than extract the old lithium from batteries.
Did you know that when you virtuously shelled out £45,000 on a Tesla Model 3?
Scale is difficult:
h/t Steve H