As world leaders and clean energy innovators work to address climate change, it’s no longer enough for us to simply do less: to drive less, buy less and discard less. Rather it’s up to us to do more: to go above and beyond to affect lasting, positive change for the health of our planet and the human race.
That’s why SunPower is committed to designing solar panels as sustainably as the energy they produce. Our solar panels generate far more energy,1 far longer than conventional solar panels, delivering reliable, clean electricity to homes, businesses and power plants for a predicted useful life of more than 40 years.2
With durable products that have a long lifespan, we don’t foresee photovoltaic (PV) cells, the common technology used in solar energy generation, to be an immediate waste management challenge. However, eventually, these solar solutions will reach the end of their useful life. And, as more homes and businesses go solar, now is the time to proactively develop best practices for our industry so we can divert PV waste from landfills. So, SunPower has joined forces with other solar manufacturers in a first-of-its-kind U.S. solar panel recycling program launched by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
SEIA’s program will establish a national network of collection points and vendors who will responsibly manage panels as they reach their end of life. For consumers, this will provide greater visibility into where and how PV products can be recycled. Vendors chosen to participate must meet strict requirements with respect to environmental, health, safety and sustainability. By taking these steps, we can reduce the burden of disposal on future generations.
SunPower has a history of PV recycling, and we are proud to have co-chaired this effort with SEIA. Our innovative, high-efficiency direct current (DC) solar panels are recyclable and have received Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver recognition for sustainable practices in manufacturing.
The SEIA recycling initiative complements SunPower’s approach to sustainability, which is based on the concept of a circular economy — a closed looped approach to reduce the use of raw materials and instead keep those materials functioning at a high level of usability over time, thereby minimizing waste sent to landfills. SunPower is the world’s first and only solar company to be part of the Circular Economy 100, joining other leaders and innovators in the movement to create a truly regenerative economy.
With more than 1 million solar installations in the U.S., responsible management of solar panels is an important part of our clean energy future. SunPower looks forward to working with SEIA and others in our industry to find cost-effective and environmentally-friendly reuse and recycling solutions to ensure our industry is truly sustainable.
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1 Most energy per rated watt compared to the top ten solar manufacturers (9 of the top 10 manufacturers were tested, based on Photon Consulting 2013, Silicon module shipments). Photon International, 2012 and 2014.
2 "SunPower Module 40-Year Useful Life," SunPower white paper. 2013. Useful life is 99 out of 100 panels operating at more than 70% of rated power.
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a certification mark licensed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a multi-attribute certification program that assesses products and materials for safety to human and environmental health, design for future use cycles, and sustainable manufacturing.