Episode 710

710: The Truth About Solar's Hidden Waste Crisis with Adam Saghei of We Recycle Solar

Published on: 20th June, 2024

I learned a staggering statistic recently: Almost 90% of solar panels are thrown away when they reach the end of their useful life.  

In 2016, The International Renewable Energy Agency projected that 78 million tons of solar waste would be created by 2050. Within that waste sits a goldmine of opportunity: $15 billion in recyclable materials that most of the industry is simply ignoring. One entrepreneur, however, is transferring his e-waste knowledge and experience to this relatively new high-tech waste problem.

Adam Saghei (sah-gah-ee), the CEO and founder of We Recycle Solar, has translated his background in reverse logistics and managing e-waste into building one of the largest utility-scale solar recycling operations in the world. Along the way, he discovered that off-the-shelf technology would only get them so far, so, he built the technology required to increase throughput and therefore accelerate recycling capacity. But, it’s still not enough.  

 WRS has the capacity to process 7,500 modules a day (345,000 lbs) and 69 million pounds in a year, (the weight of 700 Boeing 737 jets). Still, they’ll need FOUR full-scale facilities the size of their Yuma, AZ processing plant to even begin to address the current (not future) waste stream. 

It is yet to be proven whether we as an industry will embrace the opportunity to recycle. Like all recycling, it requires a higher end-of-life cost for processing. So, the real question is, “what price is acceptable, and who will pay it?”

Expect to learn:

  • The complexities and hurdles faced in recycling solar panels.
  • The cost of recycling solar panels vs landfilling them.
  • We Recycle Solar’s “hot knife” method. 
  • Strategies for reducing solar waste 
  • The latest advancements in solar panel recycling.

Curious how you can help reduce solar waste? Listen in and expand your knowledge on end-of-life solar module management.

If you want to connect with today's guest, you’ll find links to his contact info in the show notes on the blog at https://mysuncast.com/suncast-episodes/.

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About the Podcast

Your resource for developing a clean energy or climate tech career
Nico Johnson takes you into conversations with those at the forefront of Renewable Energy.

SunCast gives an inside look into what is happening in renewable energy. From conversations with the biggest Solar Panel manufacturers in the world to the small startups creating the future of renewable energy, such as carbon capture and battery technology breakthroughs.

SunCast is dedicated to providing the knowledge, research, tools and expert guidance you need to understand, grow and be ahead of the curve in the fastest-growing markets in the world.

Featuring over 600 conversations, Nico has interviewed people from Tesla, SolarCity, Trina Solar, Meyer Burger, Conergy, SunEdison, Energy Vault and even the US Government... to name a few. Covering topics such as Solar Power, Wind Energy, Batteries, Electric Vehicles, Carbon Capture, Finance, Hydrogen, and more.

You can watch SunCast on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@SunCastMedia

...or view the full archive of SunCast episodes here: https://mysuncast.com/suncast-episodes