Lebanon discourages used PV panel imports

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Lebanon's Industrial Research Institute (IRI) has said all used solar panels imported since October 20 will not be compliant with the national standards set for such systems last year.

The IRI, which gives technical and scientific support to the nation's industry, said: “All shipments of used solar panels or photovoltaic systems dated beyond 20 October 2021 will be considered non-compliant with Decree 6997/2020 and treated accordingly.”

While the IRI is considered an independent non-profit organization, its role as a national consultant and advisor means the Lebanese Ministry of Industry should take its recommendations into consideration.

The IRI claims used solar panels cannot be tracked, or assessed for compliance with the relevant decree’s mandatory national standards, and therefore expose consumers to the risk of fraud.

pv magazine has reported on shipments of panels which should have been sent for recycling from Europe but were instead set to be sold, illegally, in African and Middle Eastern markets.

Lebanon’s electricity crisis

Lebanon is going though a political and economic crisis which has caused the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90% of its value in the last two years.

As a result, the country’s state-owned utility cannot purchase fuel to generate power and electricity is available for only a few hours per day – and sometimes not at all – even in the capital, Beirut.

Residents have turned to diesel generators and off-grid solar-plus-battery systems and, whilst the electricity crisis has boosted demand for solar panels, that fact appears to apply whether such products are legit or not.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with using second-hand panels and the same can be said about fabricating a module from reworked cells: Defective areas can be cut away and the remaining, good cell fragments can be used. That is a job which has to be done properly, however, and should be accompanied by a process of certifying fabricated modules.

There is also the possibility of fake solar cells being mixed with functioning ones to assemble larger, more expensive panels. Such practices are fraudulent and harm the environment and public safety.

In the European Union, the EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment requires the recycling of end-of-life photovoltaic panels but that does not in itself address the question of when a panel should be considered electrical waste and when merely second-hand.

A good start for the authorities in destination markets could be to establish strict legal frameworks to impose penalties on companies importing defective or falsely advertised solar products.

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