Accelerating the Future...
- FINALIST : Energy & Power
- Award Year: 2019
- Nominee URL: https://www.tg-companies.com/
As the deployment of solar modules expands rapidly, so will module waste. Today’s solar modules have a typical lifetime of 25 years. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that end-of-life modules will appear in large quantities in the early 2030’s and by 2050, they will contribute to 78 million metric tons of new waste. This is equal to 4.2 billion waste modules. Without recycling, majority of them end up in landfills today. The bottleneck to solar recycling is the cost, i.e. who will foot the bill for recycling of waste solar cells and modules?
TG Companies LLC is developing recycling processes and equipment for waste solar cells and modules, an emerging industry with a potential revenue over $100 billion by 2050. Our technology maximizes the revenues from solar cell and module recycling so it becomes a profitable business without any subsidy. We have successfully extracted valuable solar cells from waste modules intact and new modules can be produced using the extracted cells. For broken cells during extraction, we have successfully recovered valuable materials from them including solar-grade silicon and silver.
By extracting solar cells for reuse in new modules, our technology promises $32 per module in recycling revenue. For broken cells, our technology recovers solar-grade silicon and silver for $12 per module in recycling revenue. In contrast, our competitors fail to recover either solar cells or valuable materials so they generate only $3 per module from recycling. They must rely on subsidies for survival, while our technology enables profitable recycling of waste solar cells and modules without any subsidy. It forms the technical foundation for a new industry of $100 billion by 2050.
Our primary market is premature, as the quantity of waste solar modules will remain small till 2030. Our strategy for survival in the next 10 years is to develop products related to our core competence for mature markets, even if those markets are smaller than the solar module recycling market. One of the markets identified is quality control and reliability research for solar modules, which requires the capability to extract solar cells from modules intact. Another market identified is recycling of scrap solar cells from production, which is a $70 million business opportunity in 2018 but untapped.
This technology is funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant totaling $960,000. Within a year of the grant, we launched our first product and made our first sale to a tier-one solar company: a solar cell extraction system from solar modules. Our next product is a solar cell recycling system, to be launched in two years. Our sales are expected to reach $5 million/year by 2023 and $1 billion/year by 2042. Our business model is to be a recycling equipment maker, so the investment needed for our business is in millions, not billions, of dollars.