YUMA, Ariz. — Sunlight beats down on a graveyard for dead solar panels in Yuma, Ariz. hundreds stacked in neat piles, waiting for their next life. The great majority of worn and damaged panels are still dumped in landfills. But with more and more piling up, many people know that needs to change.
In this desert city where Arizona, California, Sonora and Baja California meet, North America’s first utility-scale solar panel recycling plant has opened to address what founders of We Recycle Solar call a “tsunami” of solar waste. Plans to address climate change rely on massively scaling up clean, solar electricity.
The panels, stacked and banded, come here from the company’s main collection warehouse in Hackettstown, N.J., 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, said Adam Saghei, CEO of We Recycle Solar, and there is a market for them — clients around the world who search for refurbished panels for their affordability. The Yuma facility, he says, is like “your local thrift store that looks to upcycle.”