Qcells, Solarcycle to Recycle Solar Panels

A worker installing a solar panel.

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Feb 15, 2024

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Qcells and Solarcycle have teamed up to recycle decommissioned solar panels in the United States, boosting a clean energy supply chain that could reduce dependence on imported raw materials.

The partnership will use Solarcycle’s technology to extract more than 95% of the value from a solar panel module, and recycle the materials from Qcells’ panels, including aluminum, silver, copper, silicon, and low-iron glass. The materials will be reused in the domestic supply chain.

According to Solarcycle, its technology enables far better extraction of materials to be recycled — by comparison, the industry standard is 50% of the value in a solar panel module, the company said. Some estimates are even lower

“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 Kelly Weger, Qcells’ director of sustainability. “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.”  

Qcells is a manufacturer of solar cells and modules, with a portfolio of intelligent storage systems and growing international pipeline of large-scale renewable energy projects. It is one of the largest solar companies in the U.S., with one in three solar panels on rooftops in the nation made by Qcells, the company said. It also said it operates the largest silicon-based solar panel factory in the U.S. Solarcycle is a technology-based solar recycling company founded in 2022 with the aim to accelerate the circular economy for solar and renewables.

The companies said their agreement is the first-of-its-kind partnership between a large solar manufacturer and an advanced solar recycler in the U.S.

Solar Panel Recycling

The companies are not the only ones focused on recycling renewable energy equipment.

As renewable energy sources continue to grow in use in the U.S. recycling programs will help create a circular economy that is more sustainable and less reliant on imported materials. This will further lower the carbon footprint of these renewables.

Solarcycle also penned a recycling agreement with independent power producer Greenback Renewable Energy Company to recycle decommissioned solar panels. The deal similarly provides Solarcycle with a contracted volume of end-of-life solar panels for its recycling program and domestic supply chain for selling the recycled materials.

Domestic Solar Energy Expansion

Solar energy is soaring in demand currently, even this year’s Super Bowl was powered by 100% solar energy. Amazon, the world’s largest purchaser of renewable energy, has continued to invest in solar projects around the world, while major retailers like IKEA are using solar to supply energy to some of its operations.

In January 2024, Qcells agreed to supply Microsoft with 12 gigawatts of solar modules and EPC services over eight years, its largest deal to date.

 Qcells is also planning major expansion, announcing last year it was investing $2.5 billion to build a complete and sustainable solar supply chain in the U.S. and increase its capacity to 8.4 gigawatts by 2024. Solarcycle currently has facilities in Odessa, Texas, and Mesa, Arizona, and has snagged long-term partnerships with more than 40 of the nation’s largest solar energy companies.

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