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Abstract

OVERVIEW

Enel Green Power is a global leader company in the development and management of energy production from renewable sources, with a total installed capacity of 54 GW based on an integrated portfolio composed of wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal technologies.

In the pursuit of the goal of 100% renewable generation, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy will be one of the most relevant contributors to the growth of renewables in the next decade, with a foreseen constant increase of installed capacity. However, Enel Green Power (EGP) strategy also aims at the development and the adoption of innovative solutions able to support the transition towards a more sustainable and efficient way of generating electricity in the long term.

Some researchers show that a significantly growing PV panel waste is expected in the next future. Global installed PV capacity reached around 400 GW at the end of 2017 and is expected to increase more than 10-fold to 4500 GW by 2050. Considering an average panel lifetime of 25 years, the worldwide solar PV waste is anticipated to reach between 4%-14% of total generation capacity by 2030 and rise to over 80% (around 78 million tons) by 2050. (Md. Shahariar Chowdhury et al., Energy Strategy Reviews, Volume 27, 2020, 100431, doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2019.100431). Although the amount of waste from photovoltaic (PV) panels is expected to grow exponentially in the next decades and between 80% and 90% in weight of PV panels is currently recycled, little research on increasing the efficiency of their recycling process has been carried out so far.

Growing PV panel waste presents a new environmental challenge, but also unprecedented opportunities to create value and pursue new economic revenues. These include recovery of raw material and the creation of new solar PV end of-life industries.

Although some high-quality materials, as glass, can be recovered with standard recycling processes, high-efficient recycling of PV panels can allow to recover also silicon and metals, which are generally lost in base-case recycling. Besides, Europe is highly dependent on metal imports such as Critical Raw Materials (CRM) as Indium, Phosphorus or Silicon and precious metals, as silver or copper. Aiming at reducing the waste amount landfilled and the import dependency on RM of the European economy, PV recycling is the most relevant, and also necessary, way to supply RM from the tremendous mine of PV waste as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The projection of PV waste underscores the reality of a massive emerging market for PV recycling.

Enel Green Power is therefore looking for sustainable and innovative recycling processes to recover Secondary Raw Materials (SRM) from end-of-life PV modules (including early failed modules), aiming at increasing recovery rates, recovery material quality and minimizing waste production.

 

For questions about the Challenge and your proposal you can contact: EnelOpenInnovabilityChallenges@wazoku.com

Description

SCENARIO

Solar energy is crucial and unquestionably the most applicable and affordable solution leading the energy transition and climate change throughout the world. Although Photovoltaic (PV) systems provide zero-emission power generation through their lifespan of 25-30 years, it is crucial to ensure sustainable products over the whole life cycle. While strong efforts have been invested for the manufacturing stage to reduce environmental impacts, the End-of-Life (EoL) of PV devices has not been adequately addressed.

The upcoming PV waste has been estimated with substantial cumulative volumes of ~10 Million tons (Mtons) in Europe and 60-78 Mtons worldwide expected by 2050. Nowadays, 80-90% of PV wastes are recycled, while the remaining 10-20%, that also contains high-value materials, is landfilled, which is not a satisfactory solution, especially in the context of the projected Mtons of PV EoL modules forthcoming.

 

BACKGROUND

The baseline recycling scenario is considered representative of average practices in Western European WEEE recycling plants not equipped with specialized technologies for PV recycling. This scenario starts with manual dismantling of the panel’s frames and cables, which are subsequently sorted for recycling. The remaining parts of the panel are then treated with simple techniques (e.g. hammered or ground to partially separate the glass) or directly shredded with other WEEE. Due to the heterogeneity of the PV panel (including glass, encapsulations, silicon cells and multi-polymer backsheet), this process is not able to efficiently separate different materials.

Innovative technologies, that allow the recovery of SRM (secondary raw materials), focusing on Silicon, Indium, Silver and Copper, avoiding disastrous consequences of RM permanent loss due to current landfilled or shredding practices, will provide an answer to this new environmental challenge, giving the opportunity to transform it into a new opportunity to create value.

The benefits due to the recovery of these materials counterbalance the larger impacts of the high-efficiency recycling process. Considering the full life cycle of the panel, the energy produced by the panel grants the most significant environmental benefits. However, benefits due to high-efficient recycling are relevant for some impact categories, especially for the resource depletion indicator. These treatments have to be carefully assessed since they can be responsible for the emissions of air or water pollutants.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Enel Green Power (EGP) is looking for the best – from a sustainability, effectiveness, and cost perspective – available technology or process to recover SRM, focusing on Silicon, Indium, Silver and Copper, from End-of-Life PV modules, in order to define a proper sustainable business chain, under a circular economy perspective. The solution shall be applicable in the most relevant countries in which Enel Green Power is developing its business and business cases shall consider local rules and logistic issues.

 

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS

Submissions must address the following Solution Requirements.

The solution must:

  • be cost-effective, targeting operating costs in the order of magnitude of 100 €/ton of waste treated and take into account the total cost of recycling (life cycle analysis, LCA) compared to the actual recycling process;
  • be a process targeting zero waste (recycle and reuse 100%);
  • not produce pollutants (or must reduce pollutants compared to the standard process) that could have a negative effect on the ecosystem. Generally, chemical processes are used to treat the solar cells’ fraction to recover metals and silicon (Si). The processes are based on successive stages using hydrofluoric (HF) and nitric acid (HNO3), sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and/or hydrochloric acid (HCl), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which are mostly toxic and hazardous. Moreover, the use of aqueous acids or alkalis involves the consumption of important reactants, thus generating large chemical waste streams;
  • be capable of dealing with large amounts of materials (recycling capacity > 5000 tons of EoL PV modules per year);
  • use a recycling process able to recover materials (Silicon, Indium, Silver and Copper) with a purity >99%;
  • address, as much as possible, geographically local opportunities for recycle, in order to avoid or minimize transporting for long distances due to the size, weight and scale of the materials (even if cut into pieces). In particular we are looking for solutions to be applicable in Europe (with focus on Italy and Spain), US, Chile, Brazil and Mexico.

 

Additionally, the solutions should:

  • use recovered materials in solar PV panels production or other sectors, in which their value can be maintained. Other uses will however be taken into account with lower priority;
  • be capable of being deployed globally, hence following environmental and safety best practices and taking into consideration laws and regulations for material handling and disposal;
  • be capable to process PV manufacturing wastes (cell and precursors, assembled modules) coming from PV cell/module producers.

 

PROJECT DELIVERABLES

The submitted proposal should include the following:

  • Detailed description of the proposed method or process that allows for a feasibility assessment by Enel Green Power and includes (but is not limited to):    
    • analysis of the performance of different processes for the recycling of crystalline silicon PV waste, in a life cycle perspective;
    • comparison of the life cycle impacts of the innovative solution with current standard processes evaluating the environmental benefits of secondary raw materials recovery;
    • a description of all chemical/mechanical/physical processes involved;
    • details on the materials/components streams resulting from the process, from a chemical/mechanical/physical point of view and how they shall be used;
    • a description of any potential waste product resulting from the proposed process and how it should be disposed (the proposed solution should avoid the production of waste);
    • a detailed description of the overall cost of the process, including energy consumption, with a focus on its cost-effectiveness.
     
  • Data, case studies, patent and journal references or any additional material that supports the proposed solution.  
 
Enel Green Power may wish to partner with the Solver at the conclusion of the Challenge. Solvers should describe their expertise and include a statement indicating their interest in this opportunity.
 
The proposal should not include any personal identifying information (name, username, company, address, phone, email, personal website, resume, etc.) or any information the Solvers may consider as their Intellectual Property they do not want to share.

 

SDGs

This challenge provides contribution to the following sustainable development (SDGs) to transform our world:
 
  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
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Challenge rules

All proposers are invited to read carefully the Challenge and the Regulation of this Challenge, attached below in the Attachments section, before submitting a solution.

By submitting a solution they automatically accept the attached Regulations other than the Terms of Use of this platform.



ELIGIBILITY

Except for the people involved in the organization and management of the OPEN INNOVABILITY® CHALLENGE and their spouses or partners and their relatives up to the fourth degree calculated according to Italian law, the proposals could be submitted by all the employees working in the legal entities pertaining to the perimeter of Enel Green Power and Thermal Generation worldwide.

Without prejudice to the article 5.5 of the Terms of Use, the obligation to grant the IP rights set in this article does not apply if the winning solution is proposed by an employee of an Enel company, unless the employee is the owner of the solution according to the relevant national law.

Explain your proposal clearly in English, attach documents (max 5 files, 25MB total size) if needed.

The proposals will be admitted until June 5th, 2022 and the evaluation will start after this date.

 

CHALLENGE, AWARD, IP RIGHTS

This is a Theoretical Challenge, which requires only a written proposal to be submitted. The Challenge award will be contingent upon theoretical evaluation of the submission by the Seeker.

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer the exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solver will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.

 

DEADLINE
Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (Central European Time) on June 5th, 2022.
Late submissions will not be considered.

Specific regulation in the CSA attached at the bottom of this page.

Regulation

Innovative technologies to recover Secondary Raw Materials from End-of-Life PV Modules - Regulation

PDF (0.16MB) Download

What happens next?

Enel will evaluate the proposal using the following criteria:

  • Overall scientific and technical feasibility of the proposed solution;
  • Economic potential of concept (e.g. Total Cost of Ownership);
  • Business potential for Enel;
  • Novelty and creativity;
  • Potential for proprietary position (i.e., is the technology novel or protectable);
  • User's capabilities and related experience;
  • Realism of the proposed solution;
  • Maturity level of the proposal.

In case the reward includes "Collaboration with Enel", once suitable solution/s have been identified, Enel will reserve the opportunity to start a collaboration, by way of example, all or part of the following activities:

  • Test execution;
  • Supply of prototypes (if an equipment);
  • Installation and site tests;
  • Follow up and monitoring of the proposed idea behavior.

Upon completion of the evaluation, you will receive feedback.
In case of success, an Enel contact person will get in touch with you to discuss the next steps.

The final award for this Challenge is contingent upon satisfactory completion of the verification process, including acceptance of the Challenge-Specific Agreement (CSA) that is the regulation for this Challenge.
The verification process includes obtaining the following from the Solver: signed affidavit (based on the CSA), employee waiver (if applicable), proof of identity, and Counterparty Analysis Questionnaire (CAQ).

 

ABOUT INNOCENTIVE

InnoCentive collaborates with Enel to manage this Challenge.

InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

 

ABOUT THE SEEKER

Enel is a multinational energy company and one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators. Enel works in more than 30 countries across five continents, generating energy with a total installed capacity of more than 89 GW, selling gas and distributing electricity across a network spanning approximately 2.2 million km.
With almost 75 million end users around the world, Enel has the biggest customer base among our European competitors, and we are one of Europe’s leading energy companies by installed capacity.
 
The Enel Group is made up of approximately 66,000 people from around the world who are working together on the same goal. We are Open Power and our aim is to overcome some of the greatest challenges facing the world. This is to be achieved through a new approach which combines attention to sustainability with the best in innovation.
 
Enel is dedicated to creating innovative solutions that meet society’s changing needs. Through its openinnovability.com crowdsourcing platform, the company connects people and ideas from across the world, encouraging anyone to propose sustainable innovation projects and solutions that help develop local communities.
Enel is also committed to helping to achieve 4 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

7 - Access to affordable and clean energy
9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
13 - The fight against climate change

Enel Green Power is the Enel Group brand focused on developing and managing renewable energy generation systems with a global presence in 27 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Enel Green Power is a global leader in the green energy sector, operating more than 1,200 plants with a managed capacity of 54 GW across a generation mix which includes wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, and is at the forefront of integrating innovative technologies into renewable power plants. Enel Green Power is a strategic partner that enables communities, companies and end users to move towards sustainable living, driving the shift towards a decarbonized society and actively contributing to the development and wellbeing of the many geographical areas where it operates.

Enel Green Power applies the CSV (Creating Shared Value) model, finding new business opportunities by solving social problems, combining competitiveness with long-term sustainable value creation. Thanks to its research, technological innovation, internationally renowned operational excellence, and the hard work of its people, Enel Green Power looks to the future fully aware of its potential for growth, both in terms of additional capacity and operational performance.
Enel Green Power invests in new technologies to improve its flexibility and performance, such as the combination of technologies and sources in the same plant (hybridization), the integration between renewables with other sectors (agrivoltaics, green building, new materials etc.) and research to give plants’ components a new role once they reach the end-of-life stage. All these projects are conducted under the lens of Sustainability and the Circular Economy.
With its international experience, Enel Green Power also develops custom projects to offer companies the best solutions when it comes to energy generated from renewable sources. Clean energy and sustainable projects, competitive costs and tailor-made solutions are the main benefits of the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), tools that are capable of building strong, long-lasting partnerships with business and industrial clients.

Enel Green Power is also one of the founding members of RES4Africa Foundation, the association founded in 2012 to promote renewable energy and the spread of know-how on the African continent.

Attachments

Innovative technologies to recover Secondary Raw Materials from End-of-Life PV Modules - Regulation

PDF (0.16MB) Download

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