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SolarCycle, an American startup, is transforming broken solar panels from landfill waste into valuable raw material which can be turned into new solar panels once again.
Materials like copper, aluminum, silver and silicone are recovered from the old solar panels and the company’s recycling method is able to reduce them to just 2% of their material weight.
Dr. Pablo Dias, an Australian scientist, found a method of electrostatically separating waste streams from solar panels fed into large machine-grade shredders. Good News Network writes that “by removing the aluminum frame, and then shredding the solar cells, the process is profitable and advantageous when shredding small amounts of solar rays.”
Dias says that “the process can chew up 220,000 pounds (1,000 tonnes) of solar panels a year, the rough equivalent to 50,000 panels a year.”
“This is something someone can pick up elsewhere, it doesn’t use any chemicals, it doesn’t emit any hazardous pollution. It produces dust from crushing the panels, but you have dust collectors there,” Dias told the Guardian.
Dias have now started working with SolarCycle to apply his technology to their work. The startup has gotten investments from many actors within the solar market.
“For solar to truly scale to its full potential, we need to create renewable supply chains and a vibrant secondary market for used panels and recycled materials,” Solar Cycle states.
Right now, SolarCycle is the only technology-based company working with recycling within the solar industry. Recently, they closed a deal for “end-of-life” solar array recycling with their first utility-scale partner, Silicon Ranch, which operates 145 solar power facilities in America.