CAPE CORAL, FL (November 18, 2022) – Decom Solar, LLC, a leader in solar decommissioning services, has mobilized in Cape Coral, Florida to support a big box retail client with their Hurricane Ian clean-up efforts.

A sizable portion of a two-year old 889.2 kW system and roof was damaged by the Category 4 storm. Decom Solar is testing all equipment to determine what can be reused and what must be properly recycled. All equipment in working condition will then be removed and stored to allow for the repair work to take place. All damaged modules will be recycled with a SEIA certified recycler and all damaged racking, inverters, and balance-of-system equipment will be processed through local recyclers.

“When people read about solar decommissioning, they often assume that the equipment is being removed and thrown out. We are focused on making sure that all working equipment remains in operation. We are committed to keeping solar modules out of landfills, regardless of the reason they need to be removed,” said Stephen Burns, Co-Founder of Decom Solar.

By keeping this working equipment in operation, it is estimated to offset 1,100,070 pounds of coal burned, enough to power 125 homes per year or preserve 6.7 acres of U.S. forests in one year. To further their commitment to the planet, Decom Solar is partnered with One Tree Planted, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to global reforestation. For this project, Decom Solar will donate 2,340 trees to be planted on their client’s behalf.

For more information, please email stephen@decomsolar.com

Hurricane season is upon us, and the southeast is bracing for Hurricane Ian. Every year business owners throughout the Gulf and East Coast are dealing with added anxiety around the increased potential for damage to their solar arrays and buildings. The good news is that your solar array should have been designed and installed to withstand hurricane force winds. There are steps you should take in advance of major storms.

  • De-Energize your solar array. If anything does come loose in the storm this can function as a safeguard from arcing once the sun does come back out. Your O&M company should be able to walk you through how to do this over the phone.
  • As soon as it is safe, inspect the system, especially rooftop systems. You should look for the following:
    • Loosened or overturned modules – inspect these areas for roof damage and contact your roofing company to apply temporary patching
    • Moved cable tray or conduit
    • Exposed wires
  • If you observe any of the above, do not operate the system. You should contact your O&M company immediately.

In all instances, after major storms (hurricanes, tornados, high wind events) it is recommended to schedule your O&M company for a site visit to ensure the system is safe to operate. If there is sustained damage, your insurance company should get involved, take a lot of photo evidence, and always remember, solar modules are energized if they are exposed to the sun and should only be handled by industry professionals!

Our thoughts are with everyone in the path of Hurricane Ian, and we hope that this season is both safe and uneventful for all.

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

As detailed in our earlier blog, The Re-Roof Conundrum, companies who are exploring solar are often faced with a decision to install solar on a rooftop that has ten years or less of roof life left. Developers recommend that if your roof has ten plus years of roof life left, going solar is a good financial investment, but are they considering the challenges that arise with a solar decommissioning and reinstallation project?

It is important that future building and tenant needs are understood prior to designing a solar array. While this can be difficult to predict, any future changes to a solar array layout can be complicated. Often, the equipment that will be used for your solar installation may not be able to be redesigned or reinstalled due to code requirements or lack of support from equipment vendors. We run into these issues regularly when working with racking manufacturers.

Racking manufacturers are constantly required to update their equipment to comply with new code requirements and technology advancements. As a result, they will do away with older equipment manufacturing lines or engineering functions to support their current offerings.  In cases where an older array needs to be removed and reinstalled this can be problematic. If you are unable to obtain new ballast layouts or spare parts for your project, you may be in a position where your functioning warrantied equipment cannot be reinstalled. The problem will be compounded if the local code enforcement office requires updated designs to comply with updated ASCE wind and structural requirements.

If you know that a re-roof or array adjustments will be needed before your solar array reaches its true end-of-life, there are a few key steps you should take with your solar developer:

  • Request that your developer provide stamped racking and electrical plans to support the future project.
  • Discuss the future changes or re-roof needs with the local permitting office at the time of the original installation and get an approval in writing that your system will be grandfathered into the current code requirements.
  • Purchase spare racking equipment that is needed at the time of your initial solar project so that you have the equipment needed on hand. You can request that this spare equipment be packaged separately so that it is palletized and easily storable on-site.

If your company is looking at a rooftop solar project or has an operating system that will need to be decommissioned and reinstalled Decom Solar can help get ahead of these challenges so that you are not caught in a lurch. We will work with you and your developer to determine the best course of action to ensure your future building and tenant needs are addressed and alleviated.

Decom Solar specializes in solar decommissioning and reinstallation solutions for asset owners and developers. Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.

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

For the third year in a row, solar PV installations accounted for the largest share of new electricity generation in the U.S., adding an additional 23.6 GW of capacity to reach over 121GW of installed capacity in the country (SEIA 2022).  As this number continues to grow, there is an increasing number of solar material that is starting to reach its end-of-life (EOL).  A deliberate and regulated plan to ensure that this material is repurposed and recycled properly is necessary to encourage a circular economy and guarantee that the sustainability strides of our industry are not erased through the destructive scraping of materials.

Fortunately, regulatory bodies are beginning to pay attention to this incoming wave of aging PV systems.  On March 18 of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy released its action plan to enable responsible handling of EOL photovoltaic materials.  Through their Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the DOE plans to support hardware research to reduce the cost of and promote module recycling, create a database of aging systems, reach out to stakeholders, and more.  Additionally, decommissioning policies and guidelines have already been growing at the state and local AHJ level.  Fifteen U.S. states have enforced statewide solar decommissioning policies enforcing everything from financial assurances (such as decommissioning bonds) to mandatory recycling.  Washington state has even proposed an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program to start in 2025 that would seek to ensure sustainable practices by making the manufacturer financially responsible for recycling any of their products that are deployed in the state.  If passed as written, this responsibility could fall on the solar developers.  NREL has published a great survey of current federal and state level decommissioning policies in the U.S., which can be found here.

Map of state solar decommissioning policies in the United States (NREL 2021)

 

There is no question that more regulations around the proper handling and disposal of end-of-life systems are going to be popping up around the U.S. to help tackle this issue.  As an industry, we must all take responsibility in ensuring that sustainable end-of-life management is being thought through in the beginning of a project, as well as following through at its end.  Decom Solar can help guide and educate asset owners, developers, manufacturers, and more through the options available.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.

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.

According to the International Energy Agency, over 70,000 solar panels are being installed every hour around the world.  This rapid deployment is expected to grow year over year and, as it does, so will the volume of end-of-life modules.   While a major part of our mission at Decom Solar is repurposing modules that are still in working order, eventually these modules will need to be properly disposed of.  It is estimated that by 2050 there could be almost 100 million metric tons of decommissioned solar panels amassed around the globe and responsible recycling is the solution to make sure these are kept out of landfills.

Solar photovoltaic panels are arranged like a sandwich, with about 90% of them using silicon in the center as the semiconductor material.  Layered on top of the silicon are thin strips of conductive metal that collect the cells’ moving electrons and usher them into the panel’s copper wiring.  The cells are protected with an EVA plastic and a thicker glass on top and usually a PET plastic as the backsheet protection.  All layers are then encased in an aluminum frame, which is what physically connects and interfaces with solar racking systems.

Components of PV Module - NREL
Components of PV Module – NREL

With this material makeup, over 80% of a module’s weight consists of glass and aluminum, which are common and easily recyclable; however, the process of deconstructing the panels is complicated and intensive.  Due to this, recycling in the United States is expensive and often leads to owners either landfilling the equipment themselves or putting the onerous on fragile communities through donations without planning for the proper end-of-life solution.

The good news is that awareness on this urgent need is growing and leading to state-of-the-art recycling technologies, appropriate government regulations, and economic incentives to ensure that measures are in place to create a circular, clean solar lifecycle.  Decom Solar pledges to help lead this effort and in partnering with us, system owners can rest assured that this end-of-life issue is being addressed.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.

Since solar installations began there have been conflicting opinions on how corporate clients should approach the useful roof life for their building. Commercial roofs are typically warrantied for 20 years, and solar arrays are meant to remain in place for 25+ years.  This creates a difficult decision for companies who are looking at installing solar. Do you re-roof prior to installation to keep warranty periods closely aligned or do you move ahead with the solar installation and deal with future roof issues as they arise?  It is generally recommended by solar developers that if your roof has 10+ years of usable life left it is most cost effective to move ahead with a solar installation, and they are not wrong, but did you budget for a decommission and re-installation in year ten of your solar array’s life? Typically, no.

Decom Solar has worked with several clients who have faced this exact scenario and it is expected that this will continue to be a problem to solve in the industry.  There are several factors to consider when the time for a re-roof arrives.

Communicating with permitting agencies is of top priority when assessing a re-roof and reinstallation of solar equipment. Often, the local authorities may require you to bring your existing solar array up to current code, which can result in significant costs for engineering, equipment, and installation.

Coordination with your roofing partner is the next key step in keeping re-installation costs down.  Different roof applications require different installation methods and understanding how the construction of the new roof is being performed can bring creative re-installation solutions to the forefront, mitigating significant labor costs.

Local incentive programs can also impact company’s decisions on a best path forward.  If incentive structures are still very strong, it is worth considering installing a new solar array all together, which may drive significant financial returns for your business.

No matter the scenario, it is highly recommended that companies get ahead of these challenges so they can understand the associated costs and budget accordingly.  Avoiding a scenario where your roof is failing, and you need to scramble to solve the problem, is of the utmost importance.

Decom Solar can help system owners work through the challenges of decommissioning and recommissioning a solar installation.  We pride ourselves on understanding all aspects of solar installations and we have successfully worked with developers, permitting agencies, and roofing partners to develop cost-effective solutions for our clients.

Whether you are just starting to look at solar or already have solar installed, Decom Solar can help plan for your future re-roofing needs.  Visit www.decomsolar.com for more information.

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.