NSW coastal council and volunteers to repurpose secondhand solar panels locally


Eurobodalla Council on the New South Wales (NSW) South Coast is partnering with Repurposing for Resilience (RfR) to set up a community solar panel reuse centre.

The Council’s waste coordinator, Evan Brooks, said he was approached by Repurposing for Resilience, a local volunteer group made up of electricians, engineers and fabricators, to intercept used solar panels so the group can locally repurpose them.

“We process and test equipment to make it available to our community either through gifting it to households in need or making it more affordable through resale,” RfR coordinator Lisa Cornthwaite said.

“We’re seeing so many households that are replacing solar panels that still have years left in their lifecycle,” she added. “By returning it to its use stream with warranty we are instilling confidence in a second-hand market.”

Cornthwaite said solar panels no longer fit for their intended use will be repurposed or upcycled into things like USB charging tables, building cladding, outdoor furniture, dog kennels and garden beds.

“We want to make a positive impact, making sure solar panels and components get the most of their working life, before they’re broken down for recycled materials,” Cornthwaite added.

Solar recycling is something of an ambivalent industry in Australia, and also worldwide. There are numerous solar panel recycling schemes and companies, but very few which are actually processing – that is, actually recycling – solar panels. 

Reusing solar equipment has less environmental impact because it involves less processing, but this too has come under fire with many companies simply making a business of exporting secondhand panels to Africa, especially Nigeria, without any due testing process or regulatory overview.

The Eurobodalla program says it is only looking to reuse panels locally. The Council has now initiated a free drop-off point at Moruya Transfer station, though a $10 fee still applies at the Surf Beach and Brou facilities, it said.

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