A Rebirth for Germany’s Oldest Solar Power Plant

Germany’s SolarWorld AG is going to take over the recycling of Germany’s oldest large-scale solar power plant built in 1983 — and expanded in 1993 — on the North Sea island of Pellworm.

The 600 kW solar power generating plant was operated until recently by the North German utility E.ON Hanse AG and is now undergoing modernization. After the disassembly of the first 300 KW of this historic solar power plant the more than 20-year-old solar modules made by AEG-Telefunken will be turned back into newer, higher-efficiency solar silicon wafers by a recycling process developed by the SolarWorld Group itself. According to company officials, the SolarWorld Group is so far the only company to offer solar recycling. They are currently working on building up a voluntary collection and retrieval system for spent and damaged solar modules and cells. In the process solar modules are first melted down so that the old solar cells and their constituent parts are available in unadulterated form. The cells then pass through a variety of cleansing baths until they turn into pure silicon wafers from which new solar cells can be made again. “The end product is a high quality input material for new solar silicon cells and modules,” said Karsten Wambach, who is responsible for the recycling activities in the “Solar Material” division of the SolarWorld subsidiary Deutsche Solar AG. “The silicon wafers resulting from the recycling do not differ in any way from our high quality new products.” Company officials also added that both the age of the original solar panels and the recycling of them demonstrate the sustainability and longevity of solar technology as a whole. “With a service life of more than 20 years the historic solar modules have provided evidence of the longevity of solar technology which we have further increased with a service life guarantee of 25 years,” said Dipl.-Ing. Frank H. Asbeck, Chairman and CEO of SolarWorld AG. “The recycling of the old solar modules shows that the raw materials of solar power generation can be used again and again going through ever more production cycles. This makes them significantly different from fossil energies which can only be employed once and are then used up and degraded.”
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