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Rules needed on how to deal with used solar panels

It is encouraging that more solar panels are being installed on public apartment blocks, as energy generated from photovoltaic panels does not release greenhouse gases (“Govt to ramp up use of solar panels islandwide”; Oct 17).

Rules needed on how to deal with used solar panels

Solar panels on top of a walkway at National Gallery Singapore’s roof garden. Enhancing Singapore’s energy security via solar power is a step in the right direction. TODAY file photo

Tan Qi Guang

It is encouraging that more solar panels are being installed on public apartment blocks, as energy generated from photovoltaic panels does not release greenhouse gases (“Govt to ramp up use of solar panels islandwide”; Oct 17).

This is aligned with Singapore’s pledge to reduce our carbon footprint, outlined in our commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Moreover, as Singapore experiences about 50 per cent more solar radiation than in temperate countries, the choice to enhance our energy security through solar power is a step in the right direction.

While the benefits of harnessing solar power are clear, irresponsible disposal of used panels would have adverse effects on the environment.

Hazardous materials such as arsenic, cadmium telluride and chromium are used in the production of solar panels and can be toxic waste if they are dumped onto landfill sites.

These substances can potentially be released into the environment through leachate or open burning, resulting in the contamination of soil, water and air.

Hence we must manage end-of-life solar panels in environmentally friendly ways.

The issue to consider then is whether this responsibility lies with the Government or with companies such as Sunseap.

There now seems to be a lack of information regarding Singapore’s management of solar panels once they reach the end of their lifetime, and there do not seem to be regulations that address such issues adequately.

One solution could be for the Government to ensure that used panels are recycled so that they do not end up in landfills.

This solution is not new; other countries have put in place legislation to manage these panels effectively.

For example, the European Union follows a Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, which sets legal obligations that companies must adhere to when it comes to collecting and recycling solar panels.

This may not seem to be an urgent concern because the panels can last for about 25 years.

However, policy formulation and implementation take time.

It would therefore be prudent to consider the issue in the early stages, especially when the number of solar panels here is expected to spike in the near future.

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