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Ambitious new recycling facility in Tennessee could reduce cost of solar: 'Holy grail of responsible resource management'

"We are selling every solar panel we can remanufacture."

"We are selling every solar panel we can remanufacture."

Photo Credit: iStock

Many solar panels and electric vehicle batteries are about to be refurbished and recycled in Tennessee, as TerrePower, a division of automotive aftermarket company BBB Industries, has set up a 20,000-square-foot facility in the Volunteer State.

As detailed by PV Magazine, TerrePower's new facility will have the capacity to recycle over 125,000 modules per year, and it could ultimately result in lower costs.

The plant will focus first on remanufacturing solar panels and batteries that can be salvaged, replacing any weak or used-up components. Any panels or batteries too far gone to be refurbished will be recycled. TerrePower said that it expects its panel remanufacturing processes to reduce carbon pollution 35% over original production.

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"The holy grail of responsible resource management has always prioritized reuse over recycling," BBB Industries CEO Duncan Gillis told PV Magazine. "We are selling every solar panel we can remanufacture and expect to triple the size of our solar panel remanufacturing business in the next two years."

The facility, located in Sparta, Tennessee, is one of several solar panel and battery reuse and recycling plants that have started to pop up in the United States, in large part thanks to incentives offered as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

According to provisions in the IRA, vehicle battery materials count as being sourced from the U.S. if those materials were from batteries recycled in America, regardless of where they were made originally, per Reuters. This is significant because vehicles can be eligible for incentives if their batteries use a qualifying percentage of U.S.-sourced materials.

Though China has a head start on the U.S. in terms of battery recycling — a vital part of the electric vehicle industry — the U.S. is attempting to catch up by spurring more companies to develop these types of facilities, like the one in Tennessee. 

Another large battery recycling plant is being built in neighboring Kentucky, and an area roughly from Michigan to Georgia is starting to be known as the "U.S. Battery Belt."

TerrePower, which was founded in 2021, intends to source almost 40% of its electricity for the new plant from refurbished solar panels, and according to PV Magazine, it is "ramping up its EV operations across plants in four U.S. states."

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