Amendments coming to Walker’s solar waste bill

A bill co-authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, that would direct state regulators to study waste disposal from solar panels and wind power equipment may be getting tweaked before it reaches the House floor.

As currently written, the bill, SB 33, would direct Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to conduct a joint study on the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels and wind power equipment and report findings by Nov. 1.

The joint study would consider, among other things, the creation of a state program to manage the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels and a financial mechanism to fund the effort.

The bill cleared the Senate in a 50-0 vote on Jan. 24, state records show.

However, the House Committee on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications on Tuesday opted to hold the bill for a week to look at potential amendments that would adjust the responsible parties for the study and consider adding electric vehicle battery disposal to the study’s scope.

In particular, committee chair Rep. Edmond Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said questions had been raised about the role of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in the study and the extent to which it should participate.

Walker told The Republic that his intention was not for IURC to have a prominent role in the study, but rather to “provide technical assistance in regard to the solar equipment itself.”

Walker said he is “amenable” to holding the bill for another week and supportive of the potential amendments.

“The bill is going to be held, and Rep. Soliday and I are going to work on good amendment language to keep that bill moving through the committee,” Walker said. “It is his intention to bring it forward from the committee on to the floor of the House. He thinks it is a good effort.”

The proposed study comes as solar and wind power continues to become more prevalent across the country.

But the number of solar panels that need to be decommissioned is expected to grow substantially in the coming years as more installations reach the end of their lifecycle, leading to large increases in waste.

The United States is expected to have as much as 1 million tons of solar panel waste by the end of the decade, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That number is expected to climb to 10 million tons by 2050.

Some solar panels contain metals like lead and cadmium that are considered harmful to human health and the environment, according to the EPA.

In addition, about 6% to 14% of the turbine’s mass contains composite components, like blades and rotor covers, that are currently difficult to recycle, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Walker previously said he proposed the disposal study because “it’s time to do it now before it becomes a problem.”

Despite the potential amendments, Walker said he is still confident that the bill will clear the House and make it to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, is the bill’s other co-author.

“It’s time to think about it,” Walker said. “We may not have the solution this year. We may not have the solution for two or three or five years, but it’s time to start to start talking about it.”

This story is by Andy East of The (Columbus) Republic, a sister newspaper to the Daily Journal.