Niagara County’s law was written in consultation with the Product Stewardship Institute, a Boston firm that helped create a first-in-the-nation solar panel recycling law in Washington State, said Dawn M. Timm, county environmental coordinator.
“It makes good environmental and economic sense to me to have manufacturers involved in a product’s end of life, because if the manufacturer’s not involved, it all falls on government,” Timm said.
The law requires manufacturers to present a recycling plan to the county by Aug. 1, 2022, for making 100% of their defunct “photovoltaic modules” available for recycling. By 2026, 60% of a discarded panel’s weight actually must be recycled, a goal that increases to 85% of the weight in 2031.
The law says discarded panels may not be stored in the county for more than 90 days.
“The intention of the county here is not to become the dumping ground of the next ‘best idea,’ whether it was the chemical industry, Love Canal, the radioactive waste we have left over from the Manhattan Project,” Timm said.
The law includes a penalty of $100 per panel for every day a recycling plan is not submitted after an initial warning.
In October 2019, the county required solar developers that receive tax breaks to post a bond to pay the cost of removing expired solar installations and restoring the land beneath them.