See my colleague Wayne Rosenbaum‘s recent post on the question of how failed solar panels could be treated under federal and California waste laws:
Recently the New York Times published an article highlighting the high rate of solar panel failures well before their expected life times. While the article focused on the question of product liability, it raises another question. How does the law, particularly waste laws, define a solar panel that is no longer fit for its original intended use or purpose?
Under current federal and California law, the manufacturer of a non-functioning solar panel does not have an obligation to take back panels at the end of life as it does under the EU WEEE Directive. However, it is likely that this will change as the US PV market matures and more arrays approach end of life or fail. Panel manufactures are encouraged to monitor this issue and potentially to participate in contingency planning or rulemaking.
Regarding the disposal of defective panels, once an entity takes title to the panel it becomes the owner of that panel. This includes lenders who take title through foreclosure. As such, the owner becomes responsible for the panel’s proper handling and disposal. This requirement raises the question: Once the owner takes possession what will it do with the panel or its components at the end of their useful life?