A massive US solar panel maker just went all in on panel recycling [update]


Solar panels made in the US’s largest silicon-based solar panel factory will now be recycled, thanks to a new partnership.

February 15: It’s been a helluva week for solar recycling company SOLARCYCLE. Following its announcement on Monday that it’s partnered with solar panel maker Qcells, it’s now announced that it will open the US’s first plant that makes new solar glass out of recycled materials.

In a nutshell, SOLARCYCLE will recycle old solar panels, manufacture new solar glass, and sell it right back to US solar panel makers.

The $344 million factory will be in Cedartown, in Polk County, Georgia. This will make SOLARCYCLE one of the first makers of specialized glass for crystalline-silicon (c-Si) PV in the US. It will have the capacity to make 5 to 6 gigawatts (GW) of solar glass annually,

Construction is scheduled for this year, and it’s expected to be operational in 2026. It’s expected to create more than 600 new full-time jobs.

February 12: The newly announced solar panel recycling agreement between Qcells and SOLARCYCLE is a first-of-its-kind partnership between a large solar panel maker and an advanced solar recycler in the US.

Recycled materials from Qcells’ panels, such as aluminum, silver, copper, silicon, and low-iron glass, will be reused in the domestic supply chain to manufacture the next generation of clean energy products. SOLARCYCLE says its patented solar panel recycling technology extracts more than 95% of the value in a module. That’s at the high-achieving end of the current solar recycling industry standard – the US’s largest solar company, First Solar, says it can recover 90% of the value.

At 8.4 gigawatts (GW) of production capacity expected to be reached this year and 4,000 jobs created, Qcells’ facility in Dalton, Georgia, is the US’s largest silicon-based solar panel factory. It was also the first solar panel factory to be built since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In January 2023, the Seoul-headquartered company announced it would invest more than $2.5 billion to build the US’s first complete solar supply chain in Georgia – the largest-ever investment in clean energy manufacturing in the US to date. That included expanding the Dalton solar factory and building a fully integrated solar supply chain factory in Cartersville, Georgia, that will manufacture solar ingots, wafers, cells, and finished panels.

Suvi Sharma, SOLARCYCLE’s CEO and cofounder, said, “When you look at the footprint of Qcells panels in commercial and residential solar across America, the impact of today’s partnership announcement is quite significant.”

SOLARCYCLE currently operates recycling facilities in Odessa, Texas, and Mesa, Arizona, and has inked long-term partnerships with more than 40 of the US’s largest solar energy companies.

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