Battery storage technology is a necessary and crucial enabler of the renewable energy transition. They have a key role to play not only in decarbonizing transport, but also in acting as the primary storage solution for renewable microgrids, unstable utilities, and more.  In the United States, battery energy storage system (BESS) capacity more than tripled in 2021 as over 100 utility scale projects were brought online (EIA) and Wood Mackenzie estimates that we are on track to be a 27GW annual storage market by 2031.  As more of these battery systems are installed year after year, the need for sustainable recycling, repurposing, and decommissioning solutions for this technology will become vital.

To date, the eV industry has been the catalyst for accelerating both battery technology and recycling the impending waste.  Over the last few years, new companies are innovating ways to recycle battery components and re-introduce the much-needed base elements back into the supply chain.  Additionally, there are companies who are creatively repurposing used eV batteries with substantial life remaining into BESS solutions that continue to provide storage capacity for years before they are recycled at their true end-of-life.

The same is true for larger scale BESS projects.  Commercial and utility scale storage solutions have matured within the last few years, and we are already seeing early adopters have a need for decommissioning and removal.  As with the eV industry, there are multiple solutions for aging or end-of-life battery energy storage systems.  Depending on the battery chemistry, age, and condition, these may be repurposed or recycled just as with solar PV modules.  Furthermore, due to the hazardous nature of these batteries, proper care is necessary when disassembling and transporting the material safely and per federal/state regulations.  Decom Solar can help evaluate your specific BESS decommissioning needs and provide the optimal turnkey solution that fits your project.  Reach out for more information, or visit www.decomsolar.com

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

The solar industry has experienced record growth every year for a decade and, in the process, has proven itself to be a clean and reliable energy source for our planet.  The largest corporations in the world continue to set aggressive sustainability targets and reduce their carbon footprint.  On Earth Day and every day, we all must remain steadfast in our mission to reverse the climate crisis and meet new challenges with scientific support, technological advancement, and industry alignment.

With the solar industry’s rapid growth, a new obstacle has emerged: the waste stream we are creating. Over 910 GW of solar have been installed globally, with 121.4 GW in the United States alone.  The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) calculates that there will be 78 million tonnes of waste by 2050 and that, by 2035, discarded modules will outweigh newly sold modules by 2.56 times (Source: The Dark Side of Solar Power).

Many early solar adopters anticipated their equipment would have a useful life of 25-30 years, but several factors are accelerating solar decommissioning. Rapid technological advancements within our industry are driving solar asset owners to explore options for increased energy production and safer operations.  These owners may upgrade their equipment to higher efficiency modules and more reliable inverters while maintaining their existing interconnection agreements. Since this can supercharge project timelines and economics, Decom Solar is seeing many companies update system equipment within the first 8-12 years of operation.  With technology becoming more efficient and safe every year, the amount of material that will need to be removed will increase exponentially, resulting in faster than anticipated waste production.

On the surface, replacing older technology to increase solar production is positive; the more clean energy produced, the less reliance we have on fossil fuels.  While this is true, it presents unique technological and ethical barriers.  Older modules that are removed from operation, but not truly at their end-of-life, should be redeployed to maximize the 30 years of clean energy they were built to produce, but older modules are likely not up to current UL requirements and therefore cannot be installed with available solar racking.  This limits module redeployment options to underdeveloped countries, off-grid installations, or, ground mount applications only.   Many non-profits are using the solar waste stream to do the incredible; our NPO partners provide electricity to communities without power, provide generation during catastrophic events, or power clean water pumps for those without access. However, the solar industry at large must ensure that solar material is not temporarily redeployed only to be dumped in landfills or oceans years from now.

These are not new problems. All emerging industries (including the computer and auto industries) faced similar waste disposal challenges and were able to drive advancements and revenue streams from their waste. Our industry differentiates itself from others in our mission to stop climate crisis and mitigate our reliance on fossil fuels. As environmental stewards, we all must push manufacturers, developers, corporations, installers, and industry trade groups to focus on reduction, reuse, and recycling of our waste stream.  We must challenge our industry to be flexible, creative, and unwavering in our mission, as we always have, to save our planet for future generations.

Solar repowering is a hot topic within the solar industry driven largely by local incentive structures, rapid technology advancements and decreased equipment costs.  Increasing capacity on a site can bolster financial returns, alleviate steep operations and maintenance costs, and increase system longevity, but comprehensive due diligence should be done to confirm that it is the right time and application for your assets.

Repowering is common practice in the wind industry, and solar repowering has been taking place in Europe for several years now.  Delving into more established markets uncovers lessons to learn from and can lead to increased financial results, which is encouraging for the repowering market in the United States.

With an influx of tax equity coming into the renewable energy space, system owners are purchasing older assets and actively exploring the idea of repowering. In states where local incentives are maturing, such as Massachusetts SREC-1 which launched in January 2010, the notion of increasing capacity to maximize returns is very attractive, but there are a lot of factors to investigate.

Determining which components to replace is essential in your repowering research.  Inverters are often the first piece of equipment looked at for replacement because central inverter parts can be difficult to source and the exposure to a central inverter failure carries large production risks.  Inverter manufacturers see the need to support repowering efforts and the expectation is that viable solutions will be available in the market soon. Upgrading to higher efficiency modules carries its own unique challenges.  Often, older racking systems do not have the UL certifications for new equipment and as wind and snow load requirements have evolved, the need to replace racking components to accommodate new modules must be considered.

It is generally recommended that owners maintain their existing interconnection and zoning approvals to avoid utility upgrades or long review times, but each utility and AHJ views changes to an existing system differently.  Getting ahead of the authorities is key in determining your repowering feasibility and returns.

While repowering may seem daunting, Decom Solar will work with developers and system owners to determine the best solution for your asset.  We provide turnkey quotes for the labor, disposal, repurposing, and shipping of all replaced equipment.  We work with equipment manufacturers to maximize the amount reusable material and provide engineering insight to determine cost-effective solutions for your repowering efforts.  If you are considering a repowering project, Decom Solar can find the optimal solution to maximize long term returns.

There are plenty of options to consider when you are dealing with a solar decommissioning project and often companies do not have time to explore all available solutions.  At Decom Solar, we welcome the opportunity to assess your project and explore these options so that you can get the best value for your project and do what is right for future generations. We offer turnkey solar decommissioning and cover everything from sourcing the right partners through deconstruction, with a clear understanding of your business objectives.

LandfillLandfill

The worst option.  This option, while it may cost less, is destructive to our planet and the harmful substances in solar equipment will eventually leech into our water table.  If you are electing to go this route, Decom Solar is not the right fit for you, however we can provide alternative solutions that are more valuable for your business.

Recycle Recycling

Only in cases where equipment has no life left should recycling be considered.  This option is expensive and, in most cases, can be avoided.  If recycling is the only option for your equipment, we are partnered with certified solar recyclers throughout the country and we can source the most cost-effective solution for you.

RefurbishRefurbish

Depending on the age and useful life left with your solar modules, refurbishment is a great option to consider for your decommissioning project.  Often, solar modules still have value, and you can get paid for your used equipment.  We work with refurbishing partners who are focused on keeping solar materials out of landfills and provide cost-savings for your project.

Donation

If your solar equipment is in good condition, there are dozens of non-profits throughout the country who will happily take the modules as a charitable donation.  Benefits of going this route include receiving a charitable donation certificate for your material, having a positive impact on local communities, and creating a marketable story for your company and the non-profits you work with.

Allow Decom Solar to handle all of the legwork and clearly present all options to your company so that you can make an informed decision and receive the most value for your equipment.  By partnering with Decom Solar you can remain focused on your day to day while knowing that you are getting the best solution for your solar decommissioning project and our planet.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.