Large-scale developer to recycle 95% of end-of-life solar panel value with SolarCycle – pv magazine USA

Silicon Ranch, a major US utility-scale solar developer with a 5 GW portfolio, has reached an agreement to recycle its panels at the end of their useful life.

Silicon Ranch Corporation, a solar and energy storage developer and independent power producer, announced that it has reached an agreement with SolarCycle to recycle end-of-life solar modules for reintegration into the supply chain. SolarCycle said it recovers about 95% of a panel’s value in its process.

SolarCycle, launched earlier this year, is currently setting up a new panel recycling center, aiming to maximize the reuse of materials for the creation of a circular economy. The center is expected to open in the fourth quarter.

To research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that by 2040, for key materials, recycling can meet 25-30% of domestic solar manufacturing needs in the United States. The recycling partnership will help fuel the supply chain by returning glass, silicon, silver, copper, aluminum and other key materials to manufacturing facilities.

The NREL model of a circular economy.
Image: NREL

NREL said solar panel waste could accumulate up to 1 million metric tons by 2030 and 10 million metric tons by 2050. This represents a looming problem that has yet to be fully addressed by industry, but also offers a great opportunity. Rystad Energy estimates that recyclable PV panel materials at the end of their lifespan will be worth more than $2.7 billion in 2030, up from $170 million this year, and the value could approach $80 billion. here 2050.

Rystad estimates the peak solar energy implementation in 2035 at 1.4 TW, by which time the recycling industry should be able to supply 8% of the polysilicon, 11% of the aluminum, 2% of the copper and 21% of the silver needed for recycling. solar panels installed in 2020 to meet material demand. The result will be an increased return on investment for the solar industry, an improved supply chain for materials, as well as a reduction in the need for carbon-intensive extraction and refining processes.

Silicon Ranch has a 5 GW portfolio of solar and battery storage systems that are under contract, under construction or operational in the United States and Canada. The company operates more than 145 solar installations in 15 states. The deal marks a significant milestone for SolarCycle, as Silicon Ranch is its first large-scale customer.

“As the long-term owner of every project in our portfolio, we at Silicon Ranch are deeply committed to our relationships and our responsibilities in the communities we serve. These responsibilities include managing end-of-life equipment,” said Reagan Farr, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch. “This partnership supports our commitments to advance domestic solar manufacturing, a circular solar economy, and economic development opportunities in communities across the country. We encourage other industry players to join us in this meaningful endeavour.

NREL said there is a lack of incentives or penalties in the United States today to encourage recycling. NREL analysts modeled a current average recycling cost of $28 per module, repairs at $65 per module, and landfills at just $1.38 per module. Used modules could be sold at 36% of the price of new modules.

Based on these figures, analysts have estimated that over the next 30 years, 80% of modules will be landfilled, 1% reused and 10% recycled.

The NREL study showed that a reduced recycling cost would add a significant boost to adoption. Lowering the cost per module from $28 to $18, for example, could potentially lead to an increase in the recycling rate of more than a third by 2050.

Higher material recovery rates would also drive adoption. New processes that recover high-value materials like silver, copper and silicon for reuse could create a cumulative net income of $1.3 billion by 2050, NREL said.

As for Silicon Ranch and SolarCycle, the agreement marks an important step on the road to maturing the capacity and efficiency of solar panel recycling in the United States.

“The SolarCycle team takes what we’ve learned in the solar energy, sustainability and recycling sectors and applies it to our technology-driven recycling solutions. We know scale is important to be able to reduce costs and improve quality,” said Suvi Sharma, CEO and co-founder of SolarCycle.

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