Recycling of PicoPV Systems
Mass prodcution of PicoPV systems has to provide a solution for recycling. Batteries are the first components of a PicoPV system, which have to be replaced after four to five years use (depending on the type of battery).
Lead-acid and NiMH batteries are the most common types for storage of energy in PicoPV systems. Since Lead is considered as being one of the most toxic heavy metals, its measures of recycling are of great interest.
Within Africa already exist recycling possibilities for Lead-acid batteries:
- North: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
- East: Kenya, Ethiopia
- South: South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland
- West: Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria
- Central: Cameroon
But these facilities face some difficulties:
- only 70% of the total battery is recycled. Plastic casing, separators, connections and the sulfuric acid are not revcovered.
- workers are mainly not trained or protected against poisoning
- the public is not informed about the dangers of handling a used energy storage
- number of presence of batteries and recycling facilities is unknown.
Recycling benefits people, environment and can offer new sources of economic gains.
The lack of infrastructure is the main problem development cooperation is facing in the area of waste management of photovoltaic (PV) batteries. Although the new generation of batteries lasts much longer, which thus generates less battery disposals, the problem of where to dispose and how to recycle them still exists.
The lack of physical and institutional infrastructure make it necessary for the projects to build up new structures, since normally such ones do not yet exist.
There are different types of possible infrastructures for battery recycling or disposal possible, depending on the financial resources, the manufacturers and the ability and commitment of the public administration.
The most simplistic system is the storage of old batteries within the (village) community:
The place for storage should be a dry and closed place. It could be an already existing place, like in a school or a community or health centre. It also could be a new build hut, fulfilling the necessary minimum requirements. The idea is, that a (or the) development organisation, NGOs, civil servants, medicals or missionaries etc, are taking the batteries with them and take it to appropriate recycling facilities or public administration facilities, the next time they enter the village. This informal system of course harbours some risks, but it would be a possible and resources saving solution. When the storage place is dry and closed, non-functioning batteries can be stored for a long time, this way a fast recycling would not be necessary.
From the basic idea of storing, other more'advanced solutions 'can be derived:
The collection of batteries could be institutionalised. The collection could be done by the state, concurrent with other procedures done in the villages. Even manufacturers or retailers could be taken into consideration, however this seems not to be very promising since the logistical costs would be high and a financial gain (incentive) seems not possible to arrange. Collected batteries (by whomever) could be brought to a bigger collection facility and from there to an adequate recycling or disposal facility. The degree of institutionalising a waste management system however depends on the resources and possibilities of the involved actors.
The waste or recycling system should be kept administratively simple. If a counterpart would provide the necessary financial and non-financial resources of an institutionalised professional replacement network, then of course this could be established as well, but this seems not an often found scenario. A country-wide network of collection places with trained staff, considering the fact that the majority of the batteries are in very remote places, would require incredible high funding.
- Solar Energy Foundation. 2010. Sun Connect. Battery Recycling Cite error: Invalid
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