The South Korean company Qcells and US solar manufacturer Solarcycle want to increase the recycling of solar modules in the future. The two companies want to prevent raw material problems and make themselves more independent.

What actually happens to solar panels after their normal lifespan? More and more experts around the world are now asking themselves this question, as many systems will reach the end of their operational life in the coming years. In the USA, the two solar companies Qcells and Solarcycle will therefore work together in the future.

While Quells operates the largest silicon-based solar panel factory in the United States, Solarcycle specializes in solar panel recycling methods. The collaboration is the first of its kind in the industry and is intended to symbolize a significant step towards greater sustainability in the solar industry. The Qcells panels produce raw materials such as aluminum, silver, copper, silicon and low-iron glass.

The manufacturer then uses these again to produce the next generation of solar panels. Solarcycle says its patented solar panel recycling technology can extract more than 95 percent of a panel's materials.

Recycling solar modules creates 4,000 new jobs

This value is at the high end of the current industry standard for solar recycling. For comparison: First Solar, the largest solar company in the USA, says it can recover around 90 percent of the materials. The Qcells facility in Dalton, Georgia, is the largest silicon-based solar panel factory in the United States. It has an expected production capacity of 8.4 gigawatts (GW) this year. In addition, around 4,000 jobs will be created in the region.

The Seoul-based company is pursuing a strategy that was announced a year ago. Because Quelles wants to invest more than 2.5 billion US dollars in building the first complete solar supply chain in the USA. This is the largest investment in this sector to date in the United States. It includes the expansion of the Dalton solar factory and the construction of a fully integrated solar supply chain factory in Cartersville, Georgia.

Old solar systems become next-generation panels

The manufacturer would like to produce wafers, cells and complete panels there. Meanwhile, Solarcycle already operates recycling facilities in Odessa, Texas, and Mesa, Arizona. The recycling company also established long-term partnerships with more than 40 of the largest solar energy companies in the United States.

The initiative shows the potential to make the solar industry more sustainable while reducing dependence on new raw materials. Against this background, many new solar modules are likely to consist of old systems in the future. This in turn benefits the shortage of raw materials.

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