On the 7th of November, during the second edition of Sustainable Solar Europe, our Junior Project Officer, Hanna Dittmar, moderated an insightful panel discussion on the role of European innovation in shaping sustainable solar technologies.
Representatives from five Horizon projects — RESiLEX, TRUST-PV, PHOTORAMA, CIRCUSOL, and ICARUS — touched upon all things circularity. Topics discussed included recycling silicon, improved reliability of solar components and circular industry models. Specifically, the panel focused on the EU's role as a driver of innovative technologies, that advance sustainability and efficiency in the European solar industry.
"Innovation is the art of creating something new. We need to rethink an entire system at a global scale", stated PHOTORAMA representative Claire Agraffeil, who kicked off the panel. The project, initiated in 2021, is now working on advancing recycling practices for solar, mainly experimenting with a circular model for lifecycle practices.
Another remarkable project highlighted during the event was the RESiLEX project. The EU-funded project aims to improve the resilience and sustainability of Europe's critical raw material value chain via eight industry-driven technological and business innovative solutions. SolarPower Europe is a consortium member, responsible for communicating research results.
Silicon is a strategic raw material used in most renewable energy applications: improving its value chain is crucial for the EU's resilience, as this material is used in several key sectors, from batteries to, solar & ICT, and it's not easily redeployable without severe loss of end performance, or increase in cost. Currently, EU-sourced silicon used in solar panel production accounts only for 32%, whilst silicon imported from China accounts for 66%. End-of-life silicon metal is currently not recycled at all in the EU. The RESiLEX project plays a pivotal role in promoting responsible end-of-life management for solar materials.
The TRUST-PV project was also showcased at the event. SolarPower Europe is a consortium member of this 4-year Horizon Europe funded project, which intends to improve the performance and reliability of solar power plants. Essentially, the project supports the development of O&M-friendly and grid-friendly solar PV components and solutions in large portfolios of distributed and utility-scale solar.
With the project concluding in 2024, the panel discussion at Sustainable Solar Europe was a great occasion to reflect on the progress made. Daniela Ariolli, Sustainability and Circular Economy Specialist at BayWa r.e. presented the TRUST-PV project, highlighting, “one of the key lessons learnt from the TRUST-PV project is that policy plays a key role in enabling this kind of activity, and can potentially be one of the biggest barriers.”
TRUST-PV results are being tested and scaled up from 'lab-to-fab' to increase the reliability and extend the lifetime of solar systems. All data gathered along the value chain and from various stakeholders will flow into a decision support system platform.
Overall, the panel created the space for a thought-provoking discussion on the challenges and opportunities that arise when developing sustainable solar technologies, and the role of collaboration and cross-sectoral partnerships in advancing sustainable solutions for the solar industry.