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