Ørsted partners with SOLARCYCLE to recycle 100% of its solar modules

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Clean energy developer Ørsted has partnered with solar recycling firm SOLARCYCLE to process and recycle end-of-life solar modules from projects across the United States. The landmark agreement supports Ørsted’s no-landfill policy, promotes circular resource use and drives the growth of the U.S. solar recycling industry.

The recycling services agreement supports Ørsted’s global commitment, effective immediately, to reuse or recycle 100% of solar panels that reach end-of-life status, a first-of-its-kind commitment in the industry.

SOLARCYCLE opened its recycling facility in Odessa, Texas, in 2022. This agreement builds on Ørsted’s existing recycling contract for thin-film modules signed with First Solar in 2021. While Ørsted’s U.S. solar projects are still in the early stages of their lifetime, the company has already recycled 4,000 panels. The SOLARCYCLE agreement provides Ørsted with a portfolio-wide recycling solution for crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar modules so that all its projects have recycling coverage.

“Solar energy is an integral part of Ørsted’s growing land-based portfolio and is one of the most powerful technologies we have to produce the clean energy our communities and business partners need,” said David Hardy, group EVP and CEO Americas at Ørsted. “As a leader in sustainability, we are thrilled to work with such an innovative American company to ensure c-Si solar modules are disposed of properly and to support a company spearheading solutions on behalf of the solar industry. Not only does this advance sustainability for Ørsted and the industry, but it also strengthens the American renewable energy supply chain.”

The volume of end-of-life panels is expected to increase as the market for solar installations continues to grow. Today, less than 10% of all end-of-life modules are currently recycled in the United States, but new companies, like SOLARCYCLE, are using advanced technology to help the industry develop best practices for end-of-life management that are sustainable.  

Recycling solar modules can contribute to a domestic supply of materials essential to the production of new solar panels, including glass, silicon and valuable metals such as silver copper, and aluminum. This reduces waste and mining of raw resources that must be extracted and refined. In 2022, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that for some materials, recycling can meet at least 25-30% of domestic solar manufacturing needs in the United States by 2040.

“Ørsted’s 100% commitment to recycling their solar projects in the U.S. and globally is notable and the first-of-its-kind. Their leadership is walking the walk, and we are grateful to collaborate with their team to meet their circular economy goals,” said Suvi Sharma, CEO and cofounder of SOLARCYCLE. “Today’s announcement also demonstrates that the industry no longer sees recycling as an afterthought, but it is rapidly becoming the norm to plan for end-of-life practices years in advance.” 

SOLARCYCLE’s recycling technology can extract 95% of the value from solar panels. As panels arrive at the facility, SOLARCYCLE evaluates whether they can be used secondhand on site. If a panel cannot be reused, the company runs the panel through its advanced recycling process. The aluminum frame and junction box are removed, the glass is delaminated and the remaining panel is shredded. The shredded materials go through a proprietary process to recover valuable metals, such as silver and copper, and separate the plastics. The company returns materials back to the supply chain, including to domestic solar manufacturers.

Investing in solar recycling solutions will lead to a lower environmental footprint from upstream activities, including mining and processing, while creating more clean energy jobs downstream. This industry-leading partnership will contribute towards a circular use of resources, ensure the availability of critical materials needed for clean energy technologies, and fuel the growth of the U.S. solar manufacturing industry.

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