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Qcells, Solarcycle aim to jointly recover 95% of solar panel value

Qcells and Solarcycle have established the first US solar recycling alliance.

From pv magazine USA

Qcells, a solar module manufacturer, has entered a new partnership with Solarcycle, a recycling company. Under the terms of the agreement, Qcells solar panels will be recycled after decommissioning.

The agreement is a landmark deal for solar recycling in the United States. Qcells operates one of the largest solar manufacturing operations in the country, with plans to expand production to 8.4 GW per year by the end of 2024, adding 4,000 jobs. The company announced a $2.5 billion investment to support this expansion plan in January 2023.

Solarcycle said its patented recovery process retains 95% of the value of materials in the panels, compared to conventional methods, which extract about 50% of the material value. The company recycles aluminum, silver, copper, silicon, and low-iron glass. It will send these materials back to the domestic manufacturing value chain, thereby supporting a circular economy.

With the rapid growth of solar energy in the United States, there is also rising concern about what will happen to solar panels at the end of their useful life. Without an increase in solar recycling, the United States will contribute 10 million metric tons of trash in landfills and other waste facilities by 2050, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). To put into context, the United States dumps almost 140 million tons of waste each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We want our solar panels to not only help our customers cut costs and carbon, but also to be a part of building a more sustainable clean energy industry,” said Qcells. “Our partnership with Solarcycle will give our panels a life after powering homes, businesses and communities, reducing waste and reusing pieces for all types of technology including solar.”

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Solarcycle runs recycling centers in Texas and Arizona. The company said it expects to employ more than 700 people in the next few years.

“Together, we can close the supply chain loop to ensure solar energy is manufactured and recycled in the US using American labor and cutting-edge sustainability practices,” said Suvi Sharma, chief executive officer and co-founder of Solarcycle.

Earlier this month, Solarcycle said it would move its headquarters to Mesa, Arizona, and open a research facility at the location. The Mesa facility will initially recycle 250,000 solar panels per year, and ramp up to 1 million panels per year to keep pace with growing market demand in the solar industry for its recycling and circular supply chain services.

The solar recycler has grown its infrastructure footprint nationally through high-volume contracts with industry leaders including AES, EDF Renewables North America, EDP Renewables North America, Greenbacker, Ørsted, Silicon Ranch, and Sunrun.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that by 2040, recycled panels and materials could help meet 25% to 30% of US domestic solar manufacturing needs.

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Source: pv magazine