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Legislative Memo

Darren Suarez
Director of Government Affairs
T 518.465.7511, ext. 206
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

S.2837 (O'Mara) / A.7757 (Englebright)

Support

SUBJECT:

Solar Panel Collection Act

 

DATE:

June 8, 2017

 

The above-mentioned legislation would amend Article 27 of the Environmental Conservation Law by adding a new Title 31 called the Solar Panel Collection Act.  The legislation would establish a requirement that manufactures of solar panels provide a program to collect end-of-life solar panels.  The Business Council of New York State opposes this legislation because the bill is unwarranted, impractical, and is technically flawed. 

First, the Business Council opposes the end-of-life management strategy of solid waste which is predicated on the shifting of the costs and responsibility for disposing of products to the manufacturer. The idea is grounded in the notion that if a manufacturer is required to take back the goods it makes, then the products will become more environmentally sound. There is not significant evidence that this occurs due to the lifecycle of products, the global marketplace, and the challenging business climate for consumer goods. The entire notion runs completely afoul when trying to address abandoned products.

Additionally, the consumer of the product is absolved of responsibility of the cost of disposal of their own property, while manufactures are retroactively required to accept responsibility for a consumer’s product.  It should be noted that some solar consumers already have entered agreements that require the dismantling and proper removal of end-of-life photovoltaic (“PV”) systems.  In those circumstances the consumer and the installer have included the cost of the end-of-life management of the PV in the contract.

Furthermore, the current PV market is often not a simple transaction, like walking into a store and purchasing batteries, and as such it is impractical to treat PV sales the same way batteries are treated.  The PV sector has developed multiple ways to satisfy household consumers' desire to access clean solar power and derive value from the energy it produces.  Consumers can purchase a system with cash or a loan and own both the system and all the power it produces, lease a system and own only the power it produces, or enter a "power purchase agreement" (PPA) to buy power from a system owned by a solar company at an agreed-upon rate.  Both the diversity of these market transactions and the extended product life make mandated producer responsibility of PV impractical. 

The legislation is technically flawed because it places mandates upon “solar panel” manufactures. Solar panels are a collection of solar cells that when exposed to light generate electricity or heat.  Solar panels are included in numerous solar power products including calculators, watches, and, for example, dancing Santa Clauses.  The legislation appears to be focused upon PV systems which generate electricity through panels (or modules) that convert sunlight to electricity; and inverter(s) that convert(s) direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for consumer use.  If this bill were to become law it’s unclear if the manufacture of the dancing Santa or the manufacture of the solar panel in the dancing Santa would be required to properly handle Santa at the end-of-his-life.

In closing, it cannot go without mention that this legislation is intended to address a product which, because of its size, extended lifespan, and value, has not nor is it expected to have the same disposal issues as household consumer products.

For the reasons stated above the Business Council opposes this legislation.