Australian electricity retailer AGL could create solar PV recycling facility at NSW ‘Energy Hub’

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The two group’s will also explore the creation of a solar cable manufacturing plant at the Hub. Image: SolarCycle.

Australian energy major AGL Energy and solar PV recycling group Elecsome have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a solar module recycling plant in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales (NSW).

If Elecsome develops the recycling plant, it will be the company’s first commercial-scale solar module recycling facility in NSW. The facility is expected to upcycle up to 500,000 residential and grid-scale solar panels annually.

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A solar cable manufacturing plant is also proposed at the same site. If constructed, this would produce up to 20,000km of cable per year and be used in residential and commercial installations alongside utility-scale solar farms.

Under the MoU, a feasibility study will be developed to determine the engineering and infrastructure requirements and the critical environmental and regulatory approvals required for both facilities’ development, construction, and operation.

The project’s construction phase should take around two years and generate around 20 jobs. Once the plant is fully operational, an additional 50 jobs will be created.

AGL’s general manager of energy hubs, Travis Hughes, said that AGL’s vision for the Hunter Energy Hub is starting to take shape, with partners from across the renewables value chain signing deals with AGL in the past year. 

“Since the closure of Liddell Power Station one year ago, we have signed MOUs that could bring battery recycling with Renewable Metals and solar panel manufacturing with SunDrive to the Hunter Energy Hub. Today, we add solar panel recycling and solar cable manufacturing to that list of partners,” Hughes said. 

“If successful, establishing a solar panel recycling plant and solar cable manufacturing plant with Elecsome will mean we are hosting several parts of the solar energy value chain with both manufacturing and recycling of grid-scale and residential solar panels at the Hunter Energy Hub.”

The Hunter Energy Hub

Should the feasibility study be successful, a second stage of the recycling facility will focus on extracting high-value materials for the Hunter Energy Hub.

The process of recycling materials from solar panels involves extracting silicon wafers for reuse in photovoltaic and battery-grade silicon, reclaiming electric conductors for use in electrical appliances, extracting silver and copper for other industries, and repurposing aluminium frames for making cans and new solar photovoltaic frames.

The Hunter Energy Hub aims to bring 6.5GW of renewable energy generation capacity and 5.5GW of firming capacity online by 2030. The proposed hub will incorporate several renewable energy technologies, such as green hydrogen, grid-scale batteries, solar thermal storage, wind, and pumped hydro.

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