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Our Sustainable solutions for Photovoltaics:

On average a PV module contains between 3% and 10% polymer material, which equates to approximately 2500tons per GW of capacity. In less than a decade more than one million tonnes of photovoltaic waste will be generated each year and is projected to increase to 60-78 million tonnes globally by 2050.

This calls for a joint action of all players in the PV industry in order to push forward product design and innovation with zero waste and the principles of the circular economy as their core drivers. This is increasingly being strengthened on a legal and regulatory level, with the European Commission currently working on the implementation of mandatory and voluntary policy instruments aimed at improving the circularity of PV products as well as calling for the clearer disclosure of hazardous materials to aid future recycling processes.

Coveme's sustainable solutions offer to PV module manufacturers low carbon foot print recyclable and recycled backsheets that are safe and efficient in disposal and recovery processes without compromising the quality, durability and reliability of the module.

icon recycle

1. dyMat ®Green product

PET-based backsheets have more sustainable end-of-life (EOL) possibilities compared to fluorinated backsheets for which the only viable disposable method is landfill, creating great damage to the environment because of the pollution generated and the release of toxic substances into the environment.

PET-based backsheets meanwhile can be disposed of in different ways:

  • Incineration: during the combustion process new energy is generated but there are still risks of toxic substances being release into the environment.
  • Pyrolysis: during this more virtuous process new electricity and also new fuel are generated.
  • Monomer recycling: at the end of their life cycle the backsheets undergo a recycling process bring the PET back into a monomer state which can then be repolymerized to become recycled polyester (rPET). See also chapter 3: Coveme Circular economy project.
Watch backsheets EOL video
1. dyMat ®Green product

Fraunhofer UMSICHT study:

Coveme commissioned the Fraunhofer UMSICHT Institute to conduct an in-depth study to analyse the impact of PET based backsheets in landfill, incineration and pyrolysis compared to fluorinated backsheets.

  • Incineration experiment: the study shows that the incineration of fluorinated backsheets generates toxic contaminants such as hydrofluoric acid (HF), fluoroalkanes and contaminated particulate matter which are highly harmful to the environment.
  • Pyrolysis experiment: the study confirms that the pyrolysis of fluoropolymers (such as TPT, KPK) is not a viable path because all three elements generated by pyrolysis, that is pyrolysis gas, pyrolysis oil and pyrolysis carbon, are contaminated by dangerous halogenated components and therefore make them unusable for the traditional applications envisaged.

In conclusion, the Fraunhofer UMSICHT study shows that the LCA for the PET-based backsheet (without fluorine) shows excellent results compared to the fluorinated backsheet for both incineration and pyrolysis and therefore the use of fluoropolymers or halogenated polymers in PV modules should be avoided and at the same time the use of PET-based backsheets should be encouraged.

TO READ THE FULL STUDY CLICK HERE

2. dyMat® ECO Recycled product:

All dyMat®PYE backsheets can be supplied with a polyester made of 33% recycled polyester (rPET), with the aim of increasing this percentage in the near future. This rPET derives from an innovative upcycling process of our suppliers, as in the case of DTF with their LUxCR™, in which post-consumer plastic waste (plastic bottles, food trays, caps, etc) is processed for the production of rPET that has the same mechanical and physcial properties as virgin PET.

A CONCRETE EXAMPLE:

The use of 33.3% rPET obtained from post-consumer recycled material for a typical 1 MW installation (3,500 panels of 285W) is equivalent to upcycling16,300 waste bottles of 500ml.

2. dyMat® ECO Recycled product:

THE CARBON FOOTPRINT IMPACT:

As well as giving another life to plastic waste material, Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG), are much lower compared to the emissions generated by the production of fluorinated materials, glass and even virgin PET.

  • According to an analysis by DTF (Dupont Teijin Film) based on market data collected on the carbon footprint generated by the production of PVF, PVDF, PET and rPET films, it can be seen that the carbon footprint value of PET and rPET is considerably lower than that of PVF and PVDF. In particular, the carbon footprint value of rPET is the lowest of all with products containing 33% recycled content reducing the emissions by 10% compared to virgin PET.
  • Furthermore, according to a study by Smart Green Scans, a research and consultancy company specialized in LCA of photovoltaic modules, the average carbon footprint generated by the production of 1 kg PET (kg CO2-eq / kg = 2.346) is almost 10 times lower to the average generated for the production of 1 kg of PVF (kg CO2-eq / kg = 19,057).

3. dyMat® Circular Economy project

Coveme, in collaboration with important international partners, has studied the feasibility of a circular process for the recovery of the PET-based Backsheet at the end of life of the solar module.

THE PROJECT:

  1. The recovery of the backsheet material was carried out by ENEA (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) who separated the backsheet and the encapsulant from the PV modules through a mechanical delamination treatment of the various layers that make up the module, conducted through successive steps of surface abrasion".
  2. The separated backsheet material was subsequently recycled into two distinct fractions through a glycolysis process. The first fraction is the residues from the primer and encapsulant layer which is a good feedstock for energy recovery or pyrolysis, and the second fraction was pure BHET which is the starting monomer for PET production.
  3. This BHET was analysed by Dupont Teijin Films and found to be of a purity that is similar to virgin material and suitable for any subsequent PET production. DuPont Teijin Films then repolymerised the recycled material into PET and subsequently converted the polymer into film, concluding that the material properties were suitable for conversion into their Mylar(R) UVHPET(tm) range of products.
  4. The planned next step is to scale up the trial involving larger quantities of EoL modules to enable us to produce enough material to produce dyMat® ECO Recycled backsheet and ultimately to test the product in collaboration with module manufacturers.
3. dyMat® Circular Economy project

To our knowledge, this proof of concept of a closed loop recycling process for photovoltaic backsheet is the first of its kind.
Coveme believe that we need to plan now for waste being generated in the coming decades, and also believe that the industry can only achieve these goals with open collaboration across the supply chain.

Please contact us here if you would like to be part of the next steps of the Back2Back closed loop recycling project!