Solar panel recycling industry takes shape in U.S.

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. woes / woʊz / (n.) – very serious problems or troubles

    John lost a lot of weight after going through some financial woes.

  2. give (something) new life / gɪv nu laɪf / (idiom) – to make something more interesting, active, etc.  

    She gives used plastic bottles new life by turning them into flower vases.

  3. maneuver / məˈnu vər / (v.) – to move or turn something in a careful and skillful way

    The new driver maneuvered his car into the small garage.

  4. refurbish / riˈfɜr bɪʃ / (v.) – to repair and make improvements to something

    I refurbished this laptop on my own, and now it works well.

  5. extract / ɪkˈstrækt / (v.) – to pull or draw out something, usually with special effort or force

    The recycling plant extracts precious metals from old electronics.


Read the text below.

Solar panels are a greener way of generating energy. But when they get old, how can you dispose of them without harming the environment? A plant in Arizona is finding ways to recycle aging panels to stop them from going into landfill.

The largest solar panel recycling plant in North America has opened in Yuma, just as the flow of used and spent panels ramps up sharply. We Recycle Solar can process 345,000 pounds of modules in a single day, or roughly 69 million pounds per year.

“As solar is a great technology, it is now becoming more and more accessible to everyone, there was no planning for end of life. And with secondary markets, with US’s supply chain woes, we knew we could find a way to take those raw materials and these assets and give them new life,” says We Recycle Solar CEO Adam Saghei.

The panels come from a main collection warehouse in Hackettstown, New Jersey, plus six other locations across the country. Workers maneuver the stacks into the sprawling 75,000-square-foot facility on forklifts, then gently lift each out by hand to begin separating by brand and model.

Some only have a few cracks in their glass, sometimes from storm damage. These can be reused, says Saghei, and there is a market for them — clients around the world who want refurbished panels for their affordability.

“We don’t want to go to the landfill. That’s the last thing that we want to do. There’s still life left in them. They’re 25 to 30 years. At the end of the day, someone else’s trash is someone else’s treasure. That we’re able to refurbish and re-market that and get it to a place where an underserved community can take advantage of that,” he says. Those that don’t go towards testing and resale, head down a conveyor belt where glass, metals and other materials with value are separated.

“Every product today that you see within the U.S. supply chain is heavily mined, is heavily sourced and often disrupts the ecosystems, all around the world. So, why not take it from existing products, extract those raw materials and put them back into use?” says Saghei.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • We Recycle Solar is a solar panel recycling plant in North America. And CEO Adam Saghei said the plant wants to take raw materials and give them new life. Do you think its business goal is relevant? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • According to Saghei, “Every product in the U.S. supply chain is heavily mined, is heavily sourced, and often disrupts the ecosystems, all around the world.” Are you concerned that this is the case? Why or why not? Do you think there is a way to produce products without disrupting the ecosystem? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • We Recycle Solar aims to prevent solar panels from going into landfills. What else do you think should be prevented from going into landfills (ex. old clothes, plastic bags)? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you think your community is doing enough to prevent recyclable materials from going into landfills? Why or why not? Discuss.