The solar industry is starting to pay attention to the massive wave of aging systems that will soon need to be decommissioned.  Over the last few months, more companies are emerging to provide decommissioning solutions for aging or end-of-life PV systems.  Recycling methods for solar PV panels are expected to become more efficient and the Department of Energy is focused on reducing the cost of recycling to a few dollars per module, to compete with current landfill costs   – a crucial step in creating the circular economy needed in our industry.

As recycling companies work towards this goal, there is an important interim solution that is often overlooked: Refurbishment and Repurposing.  There are many reasons why solar PV systems are being decommissioned.  Ironically, the reason we run into least often is that the modules are at their true end of life and must be recycled.  In most cases, the panels are in good working condition and can be given a second life (often a long one too) through refurbishment and re-sale or donation.  This is beneficial for several reasons:

  1. Repurposing used modules allows them to continue to produce clean energy as they were expected to do for 25+ years
  2. Keeping modules in service gives recycling plants time to reduce their carbon footprints through more innovative methods of recycling and allows the grid to be powered by more clean sources and less fossil fuels (compounding on the sustainable impact from above)
  3. Donation of used modules will help communities in need obtain affordable clean power
  4. It gives recycling plants the time needed to reduce recycling costs mitigating current recycling expenses

Repurposing used equipment does not come without unique challenges.  Used equipment may not meet current code or utility requirements limiting where and how it can be deployed.  It is important to consider recycling costs into any solar decommissioning solution, so that there are funds allocated for proper disposal at modules’ true end-of-life.  Decom Solar can help find the right solution for any solar decommissioning project and can provide guidance to asset owners and developers to minimize your decommissioning costs and mitigate harmful solar module disposal.  For more information, visit www.decomsolar.com

A recently decommissioned 305 kW solar array is having a huge impact for the local community in Jackson, Mississippi.  Croda International partnered with Decom Solar to decommission a system located at their former headquarters in Edison, New Jersey. After determining that the modules could not be reutilized at Croda’s new Plainsboro facility, they worked with Decom Solar to find a non-profit partner who could benefit from the donation of the still useful equipment.

“For us (Decom Solar), Croda represents the exact type of client that we look for.  Their insistence on making sure that functioning solar materials were used to help those in need aligns with our mission, so it was a perfect fit for our organizations,” said Steve Burns, Co-Founder of Decom Solar.

Croda donated all modules, racking and inverters from their system to three organizations who are using the supplies to have a positive impact in Mississippi:

  • The Jackson Resource Center raises funds and awareness for the local homeless population and is helping to distribute the used solar modules to local non-profits.
  • The Mileston Cooperative Association is a large-scale vegetable-growing operations that serves the local community. The solar modules donated have been installed and are being used to power their hydroponics system.
  • Kinkead Housing Foundation supports and develops low-income multifamily housing. Kinead is currently installing these modules on top of homes for the less fortunate and having an impact offsetting what can be burdensome electricity costs.

“Often times it can be something as small as an electricity bill that can be overwhelming for individuals, so this donation is having a huge impact on the communities that we serve,” said Ms. White of the Kinead Housing Foundation.

Decom Solar specializes in the solar decommissioning for corporate and industrial system owners. They partner with non-profits and certified recyclers to ensure that any solar waste they touch is properly disposed or re-deployed.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.