Department of Toxic Substances Control Department of Toxic Substances Control
 

Solar Panels Information and FAQs


 
INTRODUCTION

solarpanels_smallThis informal guidance serves to make available on the web, answers to frequently asked questions about solar panels. This guidance was prepared by the Regulatory Assistance Office of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and answers frequently asked questions received by the DTSC electronic waste enforcement team. Regulatory Assistance Officers respond to inquiries from the regulated community, environmental firms, other agencies, and the public at large about Department issues.

This guidance includes a brief description about solar panel design and is followed by answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about solar panels.

To make it easier, questions and answers in the FAQ document are grouped into the broad categories below:

  • Types of Solar Panels
  • Is it a Hazardous Waste?
  • Is it a Universal Waste?
  • Are there any Exemptions?
  • Accumulation
  • Training requirements
  • Managing broken solar panels
  • Disposal

This document does not address disassembling the solar panels into individual photovoltaic modules. This page and the FAQ document may be updated to reflect the passing of recent legislation.

Click here to read the FAQ document (You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader or compatible reader to view).

 
INFORMATION ON SOLAR PANEL (PV MODULES) REGULATIONS

Recently passed legislation authorizes DTSC to adopt regulations to designate used/spent solar panels that are hazardous wastes as universal waste. Until the new regulations are adopted, solar panels that exhibit characteristics of hazardous waste must be managed as hazardous wastes and not as universal wastes.

We have a web page dedicated to information on the development of PV module regulations. Please visit our Photovoltaic Modules (PV) - Universal Waste Management Regulations page for information on the workshops and materials related to this process.

If you have further questions regarding the regulation development process, please send an email to PVModules@dtsc.ca.gov

 

 
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SOLAR PANEL DESIGN

A solar panel converts the sun’s radiant energy into electricity using photovoltaic cells commonly known as solar cells. Key ingredients in a solar panel include solar cells, photovoltaic modules, and semiconductors.

The solar cell is the first building block of a solar panel. Within each solar cell are semiconductors that perform an important role in the overall function of the solar panel. Semiconductors contained beneath the antireflective surface absorb photons of sunlight energy and turn that energy into electric current. Each cell is soldered together in series into one large unit called a photovoltaic module. Multiple photovoltaic modules are soldered together to form a larger unit called a solar panel. Electrons leaving the solar panel require an inverter to convert the electron flow from DC current into usable AC current to power devices such as TVs, computers or hair dryers. 

Solar panels are increasingly used by homeowners and industry as an alternative to non-renewable energy.

 
DO YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS?

If you have any questions please contact a Regulatory Assistance Officer. Within California please call (800)728-6942. If calling outside of California, please call (916) 324-2439. You may also email questions directly to the Regulatory Assistance Officer at: RAO@dtsc.ca.gov.