Collective circular procurement of solar panels

Circular Economy Lab #24

The number of solar panels in Amsterdam is increasing every year. At the same time, they demand an increasing use of precious finite raw materials. The next crucial step, says alderwoman Marieke van Doorninck, is to make the panels circular on a large scale, in order to prevent toxic PV (solar power) waste. The Municipality of Amsterdam can play a pioneering role in getting governments involved and the Amsterdam Economic Board can get companies and knowledge institutions to join in. The Circular Economy Lab on solar panels provided plenty of tools, guidelines and considerations for organizations in the region to get started with solar panels.

Watch Amsterdam alderwoman Marieke van Doorninck talk about circular solar panels.

“If you decide to lay down the same circular contract requirements, there is a much clearer perspective and direction for the market. Together we can get a fantastic initiative off the ground. We need to join forces when it comes to purchasing. In this way we can jointly push through to creating a large market demand for circular solar panels. The techniques have already been tried, we don’t have to wait. We can do this and create volume. Circular production and processing routes are already possible and parties are actively taking the initiative. With sustainable economic prospects for the Netherlands and Europe.

– Jacqueline Cramer, Board member and director of the circular economy

Circular procurement of solar panels

What helps to scale up and accelerate the deployment of solar panels and circular softening is to include contractual requirements from purchasing.

Gerard de Leede fromSolarge outlines possible purchasing criteria : “We want solar panels with a carbon footprint that does not exceed a certain level. Then producers can compete on that. Or steer on PFAS-free panels. It would help if there were questions: we want a panel without PFAS.”

Total lifetime cost

In addition to including circular requirements, clients can calculate total cost of ownership. This stimulates circular solutions and is better for purchasing organisations.

Rosalinde Klein Woolthuis outlines the vision of Wocozon , a foundation that provides solar panels for 1,000 houses per month in the social rental sector and works with lease constructions. “We always try to convince our customers, the housing corporations on the requesting side, to look at the total life cycle costs. They often only look at purchase costs. Over the entire lifespan, cheaper offers are the more expensive solution, because parts quickly have to be replaced. Eigen Haard, for example, has 50,000 homes in Amsterdam. If you put bad installations there, you have a disaster after six years, with service teams continuously driving around the city to solve problems.”

Another instrument for steering for governments is the MPG score for buildings. An MPG score is the sum of the shadow costs of all materials used in a building. This calculation also takes into account the materials that will be replaced during the life of the building. The total sum is divided by the lifespan and by the gross floor area of a building. The score also includes the ‘Life Cycle Analyses’ of solar panels. With circular solar panels you can lower the MPG. By raising the bar in construction, you encourage the use of solar panels with a lower environmental impact. Moreover, if you were to link LCA scores or other incentive instruments to SDE-like subsidies, you would ensure that subsidized projects – which are ultimately paid for by all of us from the tax – are tendered in a more circular manner. Something similar is possible with import duties, such as the carbon border tax.

Eco label & quality mark

Parallel to this, work is being done at European level on an Ecolabel for solar panels. The contours have already been drawn. Another initiative in this area is EPEAT , a quality mark that tests products for the entire electronic industry for circularity and other indicators. These quality marks will help producers enormously.

Product-as-a-service

Purchasing organizations can purchase solar panels as a product, but also as-a-service’ through a lease model. Suppliers who install and manage large volumes of solar panels for various customers can continue to manage the quality and sustainability of the panels themselves with lease constructions.

Guide to purchasing solar panels

A guideline for municipalities and other public clients – about how to make a sensible approach to a circular tender for solar panels – will be available after the summer. It is proposed to link this initiative with the buyer groups from PIANOo and Rijkswaterstaat. They are developing nationally harmonized circular purchasing criteria for various product groups in which they do not yet include solar panels. The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area could then be a jointedlaunching customer.

Platform ZonNext for second-hand solar panels

Maartje van Engelen talks about Sungevity’s initiative for reuse and refurbishment of used panels. It is important to use solar panels down to the last kWh. Sungevity has the platform for thatZonNext launched, together with a number of partners including WEEE Netherlands and Urgenda. “ZonNext is an orphanage for used solar panels, a platform to match supply and demand for used solar panels. For example, a government building with solar panels is being demolished; the panels are released and made available for households with energy poverty .” WEEE NL is involved in ZonNext to test and certify solar panels. Visit the platform here.

Future of solar panels: from vision to realisation

The following two questions were the main theme of the meeting:

  1. How can we properly prepare for the flow of used solar panels that will come onto the market en masse around 2026? What reuse and recycling options are there for this stream? And how do we ensure that we are ready in time for high-quality reuse and recycling?
  2. Which innovative solar panels are being developed that meet much higher standards in terms of design, sustainability and circularity? Can we as the Netherlands conquer a market position in this, if necessary in a European context? And how can we get these circular solar panels on the market on a large scale?

read theextensive report .

Want to join?

Do you want to collaborate on solar panels when it comes to comparable contract requirements, create volume or do you want to be a launching customer? Please contact Claire Teurlings, lead Circular Economy.

This Circular Economy Lab on circular solar panels is organized by the AMS Institute in collaboration with the Utrecht Sustainability Institute, the Amsterdam Economic Board, the Municipality of Amsterdam and Alliantie Cirkelregio Utrecht. More information, such as the slides and the video recording of the event, can be found here .

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