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Company answers confounding question about where solar panels go to die: 'All good things come to an end'

Solar panels wear out over time — the current ones on the market usually last 25-30 years.

SOLARCYCLE, recycling old solar panels

Photo Credit: Solarcycle

Solar panels are likely to play a massive role in the future of clean, renewable energy. They derive electricity from a non-exhaustible resource (the sun) and do so more efficiently and at a lower cost than other energy sources.

But solar panels wear out over time — the current ones on the market usually last 25-30 years — and that presents a problem. What do we do with old, unusable solar panels?

One company, SOLARCYCLE, founded in 2022, aims to provide a solution to that problem by developing a way to recycle used solar panels at scale, reverting their component parts back into usable material, and creating a circular and fully sustainable economy.

"The more we can repair, refurbish, reuse and ultimately recycle solar systems, the faster we can transition to a world without new mining operations that pollute and contribute to the climate crisis," the company's website states.

SOLARCYCLE was founded by three veterans of the solar industry. 

"All good things come to an end, as do solar panels," says co-founder and CEO Suvi Sharma. "And so we wanted to develop the science and advance the technology in recycling solar panels."

Dr. Pablo Ribeiro Dias, SOLARCYCLE's co-founder and chief technology officer, explains that the company's mission is to determine "how to extract the resources from these panels as best as we can, with the lowest environmental impact, and send these materials back to the supply chain with the highest possible value."

According to the company's website, it has succeeded, having "developed patented technology and a scalable business model that can cost-effectively extract 95% of valuable materials and return them back to the solar supply chain." 

The recyclable materials in question include silver, silicon, copper, aluminum, and glass.

The company's most recent news is that it was selected as a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)'s National PV Recycling Program, allowing it access to work with more of the solar industry and ensure that more solar panels get recycled.

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