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Partnership Aims to Enhance Solar Panel Recycling Efforts in the U.S.
Ørsted has announced a collaboration with solar recycling startup Solarcycle to handle the processing and recycling of end-of-life crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar modules from its projects across the United States.
Solarcycle established its recycling facility in Odessa, Texas in 2022.
This partnership expands on an existing recycling contract for thin-film modules signed with First Solar in 2021. Ørsted has already recycled 4,000 panels under this contract.
In March, Solarcycle secured $30 million in a Series A funding round, bringing its total fundraising to $37 million since its launch in 2021.
Currently, less than 10% of all end-of-life solar modules are recycled in the U.S. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s findings in 2022, recycling certain materials could fulfill 25-30% of the domestic solar manufacturing requirements in the United States by 2040.
Solarcycle claims its recycling technology can extract 95% of the value from solar panels. Upon receiving panels at the facility, Solarcycle assesses their suitability for secondary use on-site.
If a panel cannot be reused, Solarcycle proceeds with its recycling process. This involves removing the aluminum frame and junction box, delaminating the glass, and shredding the remaining panel. The shredded materials are then subjected to a separate process to recover metals like silver and copper, and separate the plastics. The company reintroduces these materials into the supply chain, including domestic solar manufacturers.
In May, We Recycle Solar announced an expansion of its Yuma, Arizona facility, increasing its daily module processing capacity to 7,500. With new machinery and technology, We Recycle Solar’s recycling plant now spans 75,000 square feet, making it the largest in North America. Founded in 2019, the company has already recycled or resold over 500,000 end-of-life solar panels.
The cost of recycling a solar panel ranges from $20 to $30, while disposing of the same panel in a landfill costs $1 to $2 or more, factoring in logistics expenses.
“We need to find ways to reduce costs through scalability, engineering, and technology,” said Solarcycle CEO Suvi Sharma in an interview with the Factor This! podcast last year.
In September of the previous year, solar developer Silicon Ranch announced plans to collaborate with Solarcycle for the processing of end-of-life solar modules. Silicon Ranch became Solarcycle’s first utility-scale partner, and the partnership aimed to establish a recycling model for solar materials on a utility scale.
In May 2022, Solarcycle launched in partnership with Sunrun. The collaboration with Sunrun allows Solarcycle to explore new methods of testing, reusing, and repurposing retired panels using Sunrun’s panels.
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