16 April 2024

Some 'creative thinking' means new community centre offers a bright future for solar panels

| Claire Sams
Start the conversation
People standing at the Community Solar Reuse Centre

People gathered in Moruya to open a new facility set to give solar panels a second life. Photo: Lisa Cornthwaite.

Solar panels are an increasingly common sight on Australian roofs, but have you thought about what happens to them when they stop working?

Repurposing for Resilience (RfR) founding member Lisa Cornthwaite said the team’s latest initiative was a plan to keep them out of landfill.

“Instead of throwing them out straightaway, what we’re doing is saying, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can reuse or repurpose any of that stuff,'” she said.

“It is very frustrating when you see a huge amount of panels being thrown away.

“We’re going to be drowning in solar waste in the coming years if we can’t work out a way of utilising this waste.”

The Eurobodalla-based organisation has set up the Community Solar Reuse Centre at the Moruya Transfer Station, which opened on Saturday (13 April).

RfR is a volunteer group made up of electricians, engineers and fabricators who use their skills and creativity to reuse secondhand solar panels.

READ ALSO Amanda’s stitch-up against the fast-fashion tide

At the centre, RfR volunteers will accept solar panels, as well as inverters, racking and cable.

“We will be able to clean the panels and test them; if they’re any good and it is safe to do so, we’ll put them back out to the community for reuse with a limited warranty,” Ms Cornthwaite said.

“If they don’t come up to scratch in the testing process but they’re still aesthetically pleasing, then we’ll put them into a process pile for repurposing them into something else.”

RfR worked with Eurobodalla Shire Council for months to prepare the site.

“The depo itself has been built almost entirely from discarded waste materials and secondhand products,” Ms Cornthwaite said.

“We did that to showcase that items can have a second life – it just might need some creative thinking.”

READ ALSO Plumber wins memorial scholarship named in honour of mentor, TAFE’s Craig Walker

The Community Solar Reuse Centre has been set up to give households and businesses an alternative to discarding their solar panels outright.

“It didn’t make sense to us that panels, that are still functioning and useful, were being taken down before their time,” Ms Cornthwaite said.

“It’s a sad thing to say, but a lot of the industry is set up for anything but sustainability.

“By that I mean we were concerned with the amount of packaging that everything comes in and how regulations mean that people have to replace entire arrays rather than just adding or replacing one or two.”

Eurobodalla Shire residents can access the centre through a $5 membership to RfR.

“If there’s a centre here in Moruya, it gives people a place where they can drop off their [solar] waste and realise the value of it,” Ms Cornthwaite said.

“It saves the environment because it’s keeping everything out of landfill and ensures that we are recirculating these things at their highest value.”

Repurposing for Resilience’s Community Solar Reuse Centre will be located at the Moruya Transfer Station, at 21 Yarragee Road in Moruya.

The public will be able to drop off solar panels and related waste during the transfer station’s operating hours, or between 9:30 am to 2:30 pm on Fridays or by appointment by speaking with RfR members.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.