2023 IEKTopics|Increasing Resource Circulation to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions

While utilizing renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency are essential to achieving the 2050 net-zero objectives, data from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation indicates that these measures can only reduce 55% of the total global emissions. Only by increasing resource circulation can we cut down the remaining 45% of greenhouse gases. As a result, countries prioritize renewable energies such as solar and wind energy when planning renewable energy policies.

Taiwan aims to achieve 20 GW installed capacity for solar PV and 5.6 GW installed capacity for offshore wind power by 2025. By 2050, the proportion of renewable energy is projected to reach 60-70%, with solar PV installed capacity targeted at 40-80 GW and offshore wind installed capacity at 40-55 GW. Technology related to decommissioned solar panels and wind turbines resource circulation has also gained importance on this journey towards net-zero goals. So far Taiwan has developed many innovative technologies that show remarkable results in the areas of dismantling and recycling solar panels as well as the recycling and reuse of rare earth resources.


Introducing Circular Economy Concepts from the Design End

United Renewable Energy (URE) Co. is a solar energy and energy storage system developer formed by the merger of three Taiwanese leading solar companies: Neo Solar Power, Gintech Energy, and Solartech. Its solar modules feature low-temp coefficients and high divert shunt resistors, which provide stable energy output. The company recently entered the energy storage industry and offers a complete green energy/energy storage solution that helps businesses comply with increasingly stringent carbon emission regulations.

United Renewable Energy also developed a decommissioned solar panel recycling scheme with ITRI to provide a complete “production to decommission” after-sales service for solar energy products. This scheme for recycling decommissioned solar panels leverages the Easy-Dismantled Solar Panel Module developed jointly by URE and ITRI’s Material and Chemical Research Laboratories with new materials and structure design. With its patented bi-layer film structure design, the material layers of the solar panel can be dissembled simply by controlling the temperature of this composite film, and the silicon chips and glass as well as valuable metals such as silver and aluminum can be fully recovered.

The introduction of this new module does not increase process steps or costs and can support a complete circular economy solution for the global solar power industry.


Easy-Dismantled Solar Panels Significantly Increase Recycling Value

The key element in the Material and Chemical Research Laboratories’ design is the Easy-Dismantled encapsulation structure which can solidly adhere the layers when the solar panels are in use and later allow easy dissembling when the panel is decommissioned. The Easy-Dismantled panel technology was developed jointly with San Fang Chemical Industry Co. and United Renewable Energy (URE) and received the first IEC international certificate for Easy-Dismantled solar PV modules from TÜV Rheinland in Germany.

The world's first bi-layer composite encapsulation film technology

Photo 1. The world's first bi-layer composite encapsulation film technology


The newly developed Easy-Dismantled module offers an alternative solution to handling retired PV modules which originally could only be crushed. The estimated recycle value could grow from NTD 600 million per gigawatt (GW) to NTD 2.4 billion, creating a new circular economy model for the solar energy industry. Additionally, the recovered materials can not only reduce overall raw material imports but also cut down over half of current carbon emissions, significantly boosting the competitive advantage of Taiwan’s solar panel industry.


The R&D of Regenerated Magnet Technologies

Besides recycling solar panels, it is very important for Taiwan, which lacks natural rare earth resources, to recycle and reproduce or even directly reuse renewable rare and precious metals, rare earth elements, base metals, polysilicon sources, and glass. This prevents resource consumption during the extraction, refinement, and restoration phases as well as environmental pollution as we work towards the goal of net-zero carbon emissions. Moreover, it reduces the risk of supply chain disruption and secures the self-sufficiency of energy production and the people’s livelihood.

As a country that lacks rare earth resources, Taiwan imports 1,000 to 1,500 tons of rare earth permanent magnets from China every year. The materials are then processed into components such as motors, frequency conversion energy-saving compressors, and generators as well as end products such as speakers, headphones, and telephones. Motors, compressors, and other components are later used to manufacture electric scooters and energy-saving air-conditioners.

The need for rare earth permanent magnets, which are essential in energy-saving devices, will only increase due to policies relating to green energy, net-zero, and the 2040 ban on gas vehicles. Taiwan will also have to deal with issues including limited supply sources and the increasing volume of scrapped rare earth magnets.

Fortunately, Taiwanese manufacturer SPIN Sustainable Energy Industry (known as Spin Technology Co. before 2022) has been working on the development of rare earth permanent magnet recycling technology for a long time: the company’s core team has been developing rare earth magnets in ITRI’s Magnetic Laboratory (Laboratory of Electromagnetic Material Components) since 1982. In 1989, the results were transferred to spin-off company Spin Technology Co. to produce Sintered NdFeB Magnets and Bonded NdFeB Magnets. During this time, the company also worked on processing equipment such as fluid magnetizers and has obtained relevant patents. Additionally, Spin Technology Co. collaborated with the National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology, China Steel Corporation, and other organizations as well as partnered with various academic institutions in related R&D.

With ITRI’s rare earth magnet manufacturing technology, SPIN Sustainable Energy Industry can now reach a 90% regeneration rate for wind turbine magnets. This accomplishment is expected to increase the visibility of Taiwan’s regenerated magnets in the market as well as encourage more local industries to use regenerated magnets and bring down the dependency on imported materials.


Recycling Magnets to Avoid Supply Chain Disruptions

SPIN Sustainable Energy Industry’s magnet recycling process mainly utilizes the four following technologies:

  1. Magnet Protective Coating Removal Technology: magnet surfaces are coated with a metal or organic coating since the magnet is an alloy and can easily oxidize. This layer of coating needs to be completely removed in an eco-friendly way to reduce carbon emissions while retaining a high proportion of rare earth magnet alloys to increase recycle rate.
  2. Hydrogen Embrittlement Technology: hydrogen embrittlement uses the adsorption property between rare earth elements and hydrogen to generate NdH3 from the neodymium in NdFeB magnets. The NdH3 is used to crack the original magnet particles which are then vacuumized to let the raw material resynthesize into magnet powder with the same NdFeB ratio. The particle size of the recovered material after micronization is controlled to make the subsequent sintering process easier.
  3. Alloy Formula Design and Grain Boundary Diffusion Technology: excellent formula designs can maintain the regenerated magnet’s final magnetic properties and reliability, and the incorporation of additional heavy rare earth elements via grain boundary diffusion technology can improve the temperature tolerance of NdFeB magnets.
  4. Sintering Technology: sintering causes the additional alloys and recovered rare earth alloys to spread evenly and inhibits the excessive growth of grains to improve the density of regenerated magnets as well as their magnet characteristics.

ITRI has been ceaselessly investing in the development of advanced technologies since its establishment and has accumulated fruitful results. Its related R&D teams successively joined the industries and laid a solid foundation for Taiwan’s material industry and industrial development. ITRI is monitoring the risks associated with mining, separating, and refining resources in response to current resource circulation trends and developing technologies related to green energy, recycling, and low-carbon processes to support the sustainability and growth demands of businesses. 

The supply chains associated with semiconductors, green energy, and energy storage are vulnerable to disruption as the US-China trade war intensifies and geopolitical tensions aggravate the overall impact. Therefore, the access, storage, separation, and refining of key raw materials as well as the deployment of recycling infrastructure will become more important and are crucial to whether Taiwan can continue to play a key role in the non-China supply chain. ITRI will continue to work hard in the area of resource circulation and strives to strengthen the supply of basic raw materials for Taiwan’s industries.

本文檔案:2023 IEKTopics|Increasing Resource Circulation to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions下載檔案