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Silicon Ranch Inks a Socially & Environmentally Responsible Solar Supply Deal

Silicon Ranch, a major US-based independent power producer, has obtained an extra 1.5 gigawatts of cutting-edge thin film solar modules from First Solar, Inc. The modules, which belong to the Series 6 Plus range, were developed in the company’s California and Ohio research and development centers and manufactured at its Ohio-based factory.

First Solar’s state-of-the-art advanced thin-film PV modules have become industry benchmarks for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. These PV modules were crafted at its two R&D centers located in California and Ohio. The latest agreement allows Silicon Ranch’s end-of-life CadTel modules to be processed by First Solar’s advanced high-value recycling initiative, enabling for the recovery of approximately 90% of CadTel material that can be used to produce new modules, as well as other materials such as aluminum, glass, and laminates. The recycled glass can further be transformed into usable glass products, while laminates can be turned into rubber products like shoe soles and bicycle handles. First Solar’s commercial recycling facilities are spread across the US, Germany, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

This newly-announced agreement reinforces the existing master supply arrangement between Silicon Ranch and First Solar, which has been underway since 2022. This strategic partnership between Silicon Ranch and First Solar began when the former contracted the latter to supply modules for Arkansas state’s first utility-scale solar facility — the Aerojet Rocketdyne Solar Farm. Since then, the collaboration has evolved dramatically across the US, with over 30 projects and their potential exceeding 1 gigawatt (GW), further solidifying the partnership between these industry leaders.

This grew to a whopping 4 GW deal in 2022 that was expanded by almost another GW just six months later. While these prior agreements are scheduled to fulfill Silicon Ranch undertakings through to 2025, the latest expansion will provide support for the company’s projects in 2026 and 2027.

“Silicon Ranch has an unblemished track record of successful project execution and a reputation as a reliable, trustworthy partner who delivers on our commitments. Our ability to reinforce this meaningful legacy requires deliberate and strategic partnerships, including the relationship we are pleased to expand today with First Solar,” said Reagan Farr, co-founder and chief executive officer at Silicon Ranch. “Through this thoughtful collaboration, we have gained not only the tools we need to best serve the communities where we locate our solar projects, but also the opportunity to further strengthen the domestic solar supply chain and to bring more manufacturing jobs to the U.S.”

Over the past year, Silicon Ranch has emerged as a leader among its peers, demonstrated through its unwavering commitment to promoting domestic manufacturing and reducing the carbon footprint of production via significant agreements with both First Solar and Nextracker. The recently expanded agreement with First Solar enables Silicon Ranch to maintain a reliable source of cutting-edge American solar technology, with manufacturing operations peppered across the country. This development has been further fortified by First Solar’s recent announcement to construct its fourth American photovoltaic (PV) solar module manufacturing facility in Alabama, further strengthening the domestic solar supply chain in the southeastern United States – a region where Silicon Ranch spearheaded utility-scale solar projects in the first place.

“As a company that places Responsible Solar at the core of its business, First Solar values working with partners like Silicon Ranch that share our commitment and invest in lower-carbon solar technology that will benefit our planet, communities, and customers for years to come,” said Georges Antoun, chief commercial officer at First Solar. “Silicon Ranch is a trusted partner that shares our position on supporting the domestic economy, and this expansion of our partnership supports the accelerated deployment of Responsible Solar in America.”

Why It’s Great To Source US Panels

Sourcing solar panels from the United States instead of China has many benefits. Environmental considerations are among them, where the US has put in place rigorous environmental protections and regulations to decrease the carbon footprint of production. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party has a weak track record regarding environmental standards.

Another reason to source solar panels from the US is political, where the Chinese Communist Party has been accused of committing human rights violations such as forced labor, suppression of free speech, and persecution of minority groups. As a result, businesses looking to promote sustainability and ethical practices may want to avoid sourcing from China.

Overall, sourcing solar panels from the US might be a better alternative for individuals or organizations looking to stand up for clean energy, promote ethical decision making and contribute to environmental protection with minimal human rights violations.

These Panels Won’t End Up In A Landfill At The End

While it’s great that Silicon Ranch’s panels will come from U.S. sources and not enrich an increasingly despotic and aggressive foreign regime, there’s more good news about this deal, and it’s something we covered last month.

Silicon Ranch is already in a partnership with SOLARCYCLE to make sure that these solar panels don’t end up in a landfill at the end of their useful life. For most panels, this will be decades from now, but early failures do happen. In the video above, we can see that they stack up dead panels and then load them onto trucks when there’s enough to be worth a shipment.

SOLARCYCLE’s recycling program has a substantial recycling rate of approximately 95%, allowing for the recovery of almost all of the materials utilized in the original panel so that they can be reused in new panels. This program is a promising approach towards circular practices within the solar industry, where the recovered materials can be put to good use to decrease waste, lower the carbon impact of manufacturing, and encourage sustainability.

But, the even better news is that failed panels often don’t need to be ground down and processed to create new panels. Before going to the shredders, cells are triaged, and any that can be repaired get repaired instead of recycled, and get back out on Silicon Ranch’s facilities to keep working.

So, all in all, it seems to be a very responsible program, both in terms of environmentalism and human rights.

Featured Image: A screenshot from the video embedded in this article showing solar recycling.

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Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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