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Orsted partners with Solarcycle to recycle solar modules

Aug 28, 2023

Orsted, a Denmark-based clean energy company with a North American headquarters in Boston, has announced a partnership with Odessa, Texas-based solar recycling company Solarcycle to process and recycle Orsted's end-of-life solar modules from its projects across the U.S.

The companies say the recycling services agreement supports Orsted's global commitment, effective immediately, to reuse or recycle 100 percent of solar panels that reach end-of-life status.

RELATED: Solarcycle raises $30M

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

"Solar energy is an integral part of Orsted'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," says David Hardy, group executive vice president and CEO Americas at Orsted. "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 Orsted and the industry, but it also strengthens the American renewable energy supply chain."

According to Orsted, the volume of end-of-life panels is expected to increase as the market for solar installations continues to grow. The company adds that, currently, less than 10 percent of all end-of-life modules are recycled in the U.S., but new companies such as 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. Orsted says 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 to 30 percent of domestic solar manufacturing needs in the U.S. by 2040.

"Orsted's 100 percent commitment to recycling their solar projects in the U.S. and globally is notable and the first of its kind," Solarcycle CEO and co-founder Suvi Sharma says. "Their leadership is walking the walk, and we are grateful to collaborate with their team to meet their circular economy goals. 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 says its technology can extract 95 percent 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 and separate plastics. The company then returns materials back to the supply chain, including domestic solar manufacturers.

RELATED: Solarcycle raises $30M