How to Safely And Responsibly Dispose of Solar Panels

You’re solar panels have provided free electricity for decades. Now it’s time to upgrade them. Here’s a quick guide on how to safely and responsibly dispose of your solar panels.

Use the following steps to dispose of solar panels:

  1. Contact the company that sold you the solar panels. Their website is a great resource, as well. Ask if they have a current recycling program.
  2. Contact the solar manufacturer. The leading solar vendors in the United States have free recycling programs. They can reuse many of the materials, like the copper, aluminum, and glass.
  3. Check with your local recycling center and ask if they accept solar panels.
  4. Use the Solar Energy Industries Association solar recycling program. Fill out the online form to schedule a time for the panel pickup.
  5. Read your local and state government websites to see if they are running a solar panel recycling program. Often times, these are free to participate in.

Want to learn more about the nuances of recycling solar panels? We’ve got you covered in the article below.

How To Dispose Of Solar Panels

The cost of installing a solar array for your home may have dropped, but you may not be included all of the costs. Solar panels are meant to help pay for themselves over a number of years. But it will eventually come to the end of it’s life. And there are many valuable materials that can be reused.

Recyclable Materials In Solar Panels

The most valuable materials that can be recycled from a solar panel are aluminum, copper, and glass. Copper is a limited resource that is disappearing. At our current mining rate, it will be completely depleted by 2064. Currently, these materials can fetch $5 per 100 watt recycled solar panel. However, it will increase as these materials become more rare.

Where To Dispose Old Solar Panels

The first place you should look is the company that sold you the solar panels. By regulation, they have to provide a recycling option. Ultimately, those materials will end up in one of the few solar panel recycling stations in the United States.

Alternatively, you could reach out to the solar panel manufacturer. They may have their own recycling programs where they will reuse the material for new solar panels. Often, those programs come at no cost to you.

Solar Panel Disposal Requirements

Solar panel disposal is not currently regulated at the federal level. This means there are no requirements from the federal government to dispose or recycle of the panels in a certain way.

However, there may be requirements specified by your state. We recommend checking out your state’s environmental or material control department website. A quick search should tell you if you are required by law to recycle the solar panels. Here’s an example from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control regulating the disposal of solar panels.

Cost To Recycle Solar Panels

There are many companies that have sprung up recently to address the issue of solar panel recycling. We Recycle Solar is one of the more prominent companies in the southwest regions of the United States.

The International Renewable Energy Agency found that we will have 78 million tons of solar panel waste by 2050. The majority of those materials can be recycled. So what is the cost to recycle solar panels?

The true cost of recycling a solar panel is roughly $12-$15 per panel. This cost includes uninstalling, transporting, and deconstructing the solar panels. But you should check with local utility and recycling providers. There may be programs available where they will do it for free. You may even be paid to recycle.

Typical Lifespan Of Solar Panels

Solar panels are sold with a 30-year warranty that, on average, results in a performance at about 80% of the rated power. Depending on the panel, it will typically hold its rating for the first 10 to 15 years. And after that performance declines very rapidly.

When we perform a lifespan analysis, we assume that the performance of the solar panel starts at 80% of the rated power. The solar constant is 80% of the rated power and declines by 1% every year.

Our PV panels lose about 1% of their production every year. For an 18% decrease in performance every year over 10 years, the 20 year warranty should really only guarantee about a 12.5% increase in expected performance. That performance should be at least twice as good as the warranty period.

Then it takes about 5 more years to get back to the original performance. And after 10 more years you might only be able to produce about 60% of the rated power. This is assuming a 20% annual performance decline.

However, the solar panel manufacturers have published plenty of data about the performance of their panels. So we can look into that ourselves and get a good estimate of the lifetime of a solar panel.

Solar Panel Recycling Programs

Be sure to check your local and state government websites to see if they have any current recycling programs for solar panels. You can also check with the solar panel manufacturer through their website. At a national level, the Solar Energy Industries Association created a solar recycling program that can help you identify where and how to recycle your panels. Of course, this depends on your location.

Further Reading

Want to know how much you could save with solar? Compare quotes for free.

You may not need to get rid of them yet. You could extend the life of your solar panels with proper maintenance.

Are your panels not producing what they use to produce? May you need to get a better cleaning schedule for your solar panels.

Here are tips to make your solar lights last longer.


I'm trying to make the world a bit greener every day, whether that's through my day job or helping others make green choices for their homes.

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