Sun rising on solar panel recycling

Darcy Hitchcock

At the end of their life, solar panels still contain a lot of useful materials like aluminum and silver but up to now, few get recycled. Entrepreneurs can see the demand coming and a handful of facilities like SolarCycle are popping up.

The area covered by solar panels that were installed in the U.S. as of 2021 and are due to retire by 2030 would cover about 3,000 American football fields, according to an NREL estimate.

SolarCycle separates the panel from the aluminum frame and the feed it into a machine that can separate the recyclable component materials: silver, copper, silicon and glass. Their process currently costs around $18 per panel, as compared to tipping fees of a few dollars at landfills. But there are a lot of benefits to recycling.

The company estimates that recycling each panel avoids the emissions of 97 pounds of CO2; the figure rises…

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