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.

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.