Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Enabling a Circular Economy in India’s Solar Industry
Assessing the Solar Waste Quantum
20 March, 2024 | Energy Transitions
Akanksha Tyagi, Ajinkya Kale and Neeraj Kuldeep

Suggested citation: MNRE and CEEW. 2024. Enabling a Circular Economy in India’s Solar Industry: Assessing the Solar Waste Quantum. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


Transitioning from a linear to a circular approach in the solar PV industry will not only create effective waste management practices but also lead India toward a self-reliant and independent economy. The first step in achieving this is to assess the solar PV waste quantum in the country. This study proposes a novel coefficient-based waste estimation model to estimate the solar PV waste generated from existing and upcoming installations. It also identifies major waste producing regions across the country and the high economic value that can be obtained from the extraction of minerals from the waste PV modules.

The solar PV waste management process consisting of collection, transportation and recycling can also lead to the creation of employment opportunities. Hence, solar waste management is crucial from both resource management and socio-economic perspectives.

Key Highlights

  • India’s installed 66.7 gigawatt (GW) capacity, as of FY23, has generated about 100 kilotonnes (kt) of cumulative waste, which will increase to 340 kt by 2030. Around 67 per cent of this waste is expected to be generated in five states: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Rajasthan will account for 24 per cent of the waste generated by 2030, followed by Gujarat accounting for 16 per cent, and Karnataka accounting for 12 per cent.
  • India will generate around 600 kt of cumulative waste by 2030 from existing and new capacities. This volume will increase 32 times by 2050 resulting in about 19000 kt of cumulative waste.
  • The share of cumulative waste generated due to existing capacity by 2030 is 56 per cent. This share increases to 74 per cent by 2040 because of existing installations reaching their end-of-life. Similarly, 77 per cent of the cumulative waste generated by 2050 will be due to new capacities.


"Solar waste management will be a huge challenge soon and necessitates immediate action by private sector players. However, the availability of India-specific data remains a critical gap in devising strategies. A granular spatial and temporal estimation of solar waste is the first step in designing policy mechanisms and infrastructure deployment."

Executive summary

India needs around 292 GW of solar capacity by 2030 (CEA 2023). With the rapid deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, concerns are building around solar waste management. Responsible solar PV waste management is critical for environmental, economic, and social reasons (Tyagi and Kuldeep, 2021). The discarded modules include minerals such as silicon, copper, tellurium, and cadmium, which have been classified as critical minerals for India by the Ministry of Mines (MoM 2023). Recycling solar waste to recover these materials will reduce import dependency and enhance India’s mineral security. The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) recently amended the Electronic Waste (Management) Rules to include solar cells and modules in their ambit (MoEFCC 2022). The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also identified solar PV recycling as one of the priorities thrust areas under the Renewable Energy Research and Technology Development (RE-RTD) Programme (PIB 2023a).

A granular estimation of solar waste would help policymakers and industry players make informed decisions regarding the required regulations and infrastructure deployment. Although some studies provide estimates for India’s solar waste (IRENA and IEA-PVPS 2016, Suresh, Singhvi and Rustagi 2019), they rely on global databases to ascertain the waste at the end-of-life (EoL) of modules. A granular study that captures module degradation rates and replacement trends in Indian climatic conditions is crucial.

The study bridges the information gap in India-specific solar waste estimates by developing a comprehensive waste estimation model that provides the temporal and spatial distribution of solar waste. It further runs a comparative analysis across various scenarios by varying the module degradation rate and other available methodologies.

Key findings
  • India’s installed 66.7 GW capacity, as of FY23, has generated about 100 kilotonnes (kt) of waste, which will increase to 340 kt by 2030 (Figure ES1). Around 67 per cent of this waste is expected to be generated in five states: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
  • The cumulative waste from existing and new capacity (deployed between FY24 and FY30) will reach about 600 kt by 2030. Around 44 per cent of this will be generated from new capacities (Figure ES1). Similarly, the cumulative waste will increase to about 19000 kt by 2050; 77 per cent of which will arise from new capacities (Figure ES2).

Figure ES1 67% of the cumulative waste in 2030 is expected to be originating from five states

state wise solar industry waste india

Source: Authors’ analysis

  • The MNRE should maintain and periodically update a database of the installed solar capacity (containing details such as module technology, manufacturer, commissioning date, etc.) for accurate mapping of plausible waste generation centres.
  • The MoEFCC should issue guidelines for collecting and storing solar waste. Furthermore, it should also promote safe and efficient processing of stored waste.
  • Solar cell and module producers should start developing waste collection and storage centres to adhere to the responsibilities assigned in the E-waste Management Rules 2022.

Figure ES2 India’s cumulative solar waste will increase 32 times between 2030 and 2050

solar pv waste management india

Source: Authors’ analysis


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is solar waste?

    Solar waste refers to both discarded modules as well as scrap generated during the cell and module manufacturing processes. Modules can be discarded either when solar PV modules reach the end of their functional life or upon sustaining damages from activities such as transportation, handling and installation. Solar waste in India should be treated appropriately according to the Electronic Waste Management Rules 2022. Improper handling of solar waste and landfillings should be avoided to reclaim the valuable minerals from the waste and safeguard the environment from leaching of any toxic materials like lead and cadmium.

  • Can solar waste be recycled?

    Yes. Solar waste can be recycled to recover materials like glass, aluminium, copper, silicon and silver. Recycling can be broadly categorised into mechanical, thermal and chemical processes. Each process helps in the recovery of specific minerals of varying purity grades.

  • What is India’s solar waste management policy?

    The management of waste generated from solar PV modules, panels and cells is part of the Electronic Waste Management Rules 2022. The rules mandate solar PV module and cell producers to store the waste generated from solar PV modules and cells up to 2034 – 2035 as per the guidelines laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The rules also mandate the filing of annual returns on the e-waste management portal up to 2034 – 2035. Every recycler of solar PV modules and cells shall be mandated for the recovery of materials as laid down by the CPCB.

  • How can India manage solar waste better?

    Efficient management of solar waste requires a comprehensive regulatory framework guiding collection, recycling/reuse and material-specific recovery targets. It should also focus on promoting market linkages for the recovered materials and market mechanisms to facilitate solar waste management. Parallely, domestic efforts in research and development of recycling technologies need to be ramped up. Funding channels need to be created to promote such research and pilot demonstrations.

  • Why should one estimate the solar waste?

    A granular estimation of solar waste will guide several business and policy decisions. This includes waste management infrastructure (such as number and location of collection and recycling facilities), collection and recycling targets for producers and recyclers, and business models for waste management.



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