A Recycling Option for Solar Panels

We have written previously about the urgent need to find sustainable ways to manage solar panels when they reach the end of their useful life because of the glut of solar panels expected to be decommissioned by the early to mid-2030s.  

A recent paper by Jon Hurdle in YaleEnvironment360 raises some hope of a viable recycling option.  According to Hurdle, roughly 90 percent of panels decommissioned today in the U.S. end up in landfills because, at$2 to $5 per panel, it is the lower cost option.  

In Texas, a startup called SolarCycle offers, per their website, solar asset owners a low-cost and eco-friendly advanced technology platform for retiring solar panels and repurposing them for new uses.  They currently employ about 30 people and began operations last December.

They charge charge $18 per panel, but clients are willing to pay that rate "because they may be unable to find a landfill licensed to accept hazardous waste and assume legal liability for it, and because they want to minimize the environmental impact of their old panels, said Simons, a former Sierra Club executive."

SolarCycle recycles aluminum, glass, and crystalline silicon.  The company is quoted in the paper as saying that each recycled panel avoids 97 pounds of CO2.  Of course, reusing degraded but still-functional panels is an even better option and that figure then rises to 1.5 tons of CO2.  Interestingly, SolarCycle is building a power plant for its Texas factory that will use refurbished modules.  

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