Solar Panel Stakeholder Group

DHEC has been directed to develop regulations and guidance on the end-of-life management of solar panels and batteries as well as the decommission of solar projects in excess of 13 acres. 

The requirements are outlined in Proviso 34.62 (see below) of the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 General Appropriations Bill passed by the S.C. Legislature. To meet these obligations, DHEC issued a Notice of Drafting and invited a diverse group of stakeholders to provide information and recommendations on these issues. The activities and recommendations of the solar energy workgroup will be reported to the legislature on a quarterly basis with a final report due June 30, 2022.   

Solar energy provides renewable power and provides thousands of jobs in South Carolina. A megawatt (MW) is a unit of power equal to 1 million watts. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, South Carolina has more than 1,800 MW of installed Solar Photovoltaic Modules (Solar PV modules also known as solar panels). The state is projected to install another 1,300 solar panels in the next five years. 

There are, however, challenges. Solar panels must be managed appropriately at the end of their lifecycle. State and local officials are dealing with how to oversee decommissioning of large-scale projects. Concerns have been raised with the potential for environmental impacts of hazardous components sometimes found in solar panels. These and other issues will be discussed as part of the stakeholder process.  

For more information, please email swregdev@dhec.sc.gov

Proviso 34.62

34.62. (DHEC: Solar Projects) From the funds appropriated to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and within one hundred and twenty days after the effective date of this act, the department shall submit regulations to guide all South Carolinians invested in, selling, installing, and using photovoltaic modules and energy storage system batteries in the management of end-of-life photovoltaic modules and energy storage system batteries on solar projects and the decommissioning of solar projects in excess of thirteen acres. Management of end-of-life photovoltaic modules and energy storage system batteries shall include both partial refurbishing of a solar project and complete decommissioning. In the development of these rules, the
department shall collaborate with stakeholders and shall consider all of the following matters:
(1) Whether photovoltaic modules, energy storage system batteries, their materials, or other equipment used in utility-scale solar projects exhibit any of the characteristics of hazardous waste, as identified in 40 C.F.R. Part 261, or under rules adopted pursuant to the S.C. Hazardous Waste Management Act, Section 44-56-10 of the 1976 Code, or if any such equipment is properly characterized as solid waste under State and Federal law.
(2) Preferred methods to responsibly manage end-of-life photovoltaic modules, energy storage system batteries, or the constituent materials thereof, or other equipment used in utility-scale solar projects, including the extent to which such equipment may be:
(a) reused, if not damaged or in need of repair, for a similar purpose;
(b) refurbished, if not substantially damaged, and reused for a similar purpose;
(c) recycled with recovery of materials for similar or other purposes;
(d) safely disposed of in construction and demolition or municipal solid waste landfills for material that does not exhibit any of the characteristics of hazardous waste under state or federal law; or
(e) safely disposed of in accordance with state and federal requirements governing hazardous waste for materials that exhibit any of the characteristics of hazardous waste under state or federal law.
(3) The volume of photovoltaic modules and energy storage system batteries currently in use in the State, and projections, based upon the data on life cycle identified currently on impacts that may be expected to the State's landfill capacity if landfill disposal is permitted for such equipment at end-of-life.
(4) Whether or not adequate financial assurance requirements are necessary to ensure proper decommissioning of solar projects in excess of thirteen acres upon cessation of operations.
(5) Infrastructure that may be needed to develop a practical, effective, and cost-effective means to collect and transport end-of-life photovoltaic modules, energy storage system batteries, and other equipment used in utility-scale solar projects for reuse, refurbishment, recycling, or disposal.
(6) Whether or not manufacturer or installer stewardship programs for the recycling of end-of-life photovoltaic modules and energy storage system batteries should be established for applications other than utility-scale solar project installations, and if so, fees that should be established for these manufacturers and installers to support the implementation of such requirements. The department shall submit interim reports to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee on all activities pursuant to this provision on a quarterly basis beginning July 1, 2021, and shall submit a final report with findings, including stakeholder input, to the to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee no later than June 30, 2022.

Excerpt from www.scstatehouse.gov