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DSM people in solar: Imco Goudswaard

What’s important in solar? Here Imco Goudswaard, Business Analyst for the DSM Innovation Center and "sustainability champion" shares some quick thoughts…
Imco Goudswaard

The solar industry has never been in better shape. In fact, by 2050 there is a very real possibility that affordable, renewable energy could be a reality for all. Even taking a conservative estimate, there will be at least 24 billion PV modules installed on earth by 2050 – enough to stretch to the moon and back.

On the one hand this is great for the health of our planet. But on the other, it begs an important question: as the number of PV modules in the world continues to multiply…how are we going to dispose of them safely and responsibly?  This challenge has been at the heart of the work our team at DSM has been undertaking through The Circular Solar initiative (CSI) – a recently formed group of like-minded industry partners from across the world.

We need to find new ways of designing and manufacturing PV modules based on innovative materials that can be readily absorbed back into the solar supply chain (rather than recycling them for other industries with the associated carbon footprint; or sending them to landfill). We also need to find creative new ways of extending the lives of PV modules beyond the standard 25 years.

Building a circular PV industry makes sense in so many ways: It works from a value (profit) perspective; it makes sense from a resources and anti-waste standpoint; and perhaps most importantly, it will benefit our collective health through the complete removal of materials like halogens and lead.

Here at DSM we’ve made a promising start by building circularity principles into our portfolio of solar material solutions – from 100% recyclable (and fluorine-free) Endurance backsheets; to Conductive backsheets that make it easier to extract and preserve precious copper; to our latest Anti-Reflective coatings for the aftermarket that extend the economic lives of solar panels in the field by boosting the power output.

But we know that we (and indeed the industry) can do more – hence the CSI. The bottom line is that the small choices we make today will have a huge impact in 30 years’ time when it’s the turn of our children (and indeed grandchildren!) to continue the quest for affordable, renewable energy for all.

Make sure you look out for the CSI’s upcoming thought paper on this topic, due early in 2019. In the meantime, check out the circularity presentation given by Imco at the EUPVSEC show in 2018.

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