Qcells and Solarcycle collaborate to collectively reclaim 95% of the value of solar panels.

Qcells, a manufacturer of solar modules, has established a fresh partnership with Solarcycle, a recycling firm. As per the agreement, Qcells’ solar panels will undergo recycling post decommissioning.

This deal marks a significant milestone for solar recycling within the United States. Qcells runs one of the nation’s largest solar manufacturing operations and aims to boost production to 8.4 GW annually by the close of 2024, generating 4,000 new jobs. In January 2023, the company unveiled a $2.5 billion investment to back this expansion initiative.

Solarcycle has disclosed that its patented recovery process preserves 95% of the materials’ value in the panels, in contrast to traditional methods that salvage around 50% of the material value. The firm recycles aluminum, silver, copper, silicon, and low-iron glass, channeling these materials back into the domestic manufacturing value chain to support a circular economy.

The swift expansion of solar energy in the United States has raised concerns about the fate of solar panels at the end of their lifespan. Without an uptick in solar recycling, the U.S. is projected to contribute 10 million metric tons of waste to landfills and other disposal facilities by 2050, as per the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

To provide perspective, the U.S. discards nearly 140 million tons of waste annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

We aim for our solar panels not just to help customers reduce costs and carbon emissions but also to play a role in fostering a more sustainable clean energy sector,” stated Qcells. “Our collaboration with Solarcycle will offer our panels a second life after powering residences, businesses, and communities, minimizing waste and repurposing components for various technologies, including solar.

“Together, we can close the loop on the supply chain to ensure that solar energy is both manufactured and recycled in the U.S., utilizing American labor and advanced sustainability practices,” remarked Suvi Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Solarcycle.

Recently, Solarcycle announced its relocation of headquarters to Mesa, Arizona, where it will establish a research facility. Initially processing 250,000 solar panels annually, the Mesa facility will scale up to handle 1 million panels yearly to meet the increasing market demand in the solar industry for its recycling and circular supply chain services.

The solar recycler has expanded its national infrastructure footprint through substantial contracts with industry leaders like AES, EDF Renewables North America, EDP Renewables North America, Greenbacker, Ørsted, Silicon Ranch, and Sunrun.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory forecasts that by 2040, recycled panels and materials could fulfill 25% to 30% of U.S. domestic solar manufacturing requirements.

source: International Renewable Energy Agency

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