The First Global and Comprehensive Module Recycling Program
First Solar’s state-of-the-art recycling process achieves recovery rates of up to 95% for the semiconductor material for reuse in new modules and 90% for the glass for reuse in new glass products.
Stages of Recycling
Collection - The modules are collected in hoppers and loaded by forklift into a shredder.
Shredder - The modules are reduced in size in a two-step process. Step one uses a shredder to break the modules into large pieces.
Hammermill - Step-two, the hammermill crushes the broken glass into 4-5mm pieces, small enough to ensure the lamination bond is broken.
Holding Bin- The crushed pieces are stored in a holding bin to help ensure a continuous process.
Film Removal - The crushed pieces are loaded into chemical columns where injection systems spray acid and hydrogen peroxide to remove the semiconductor film and separate it from the glass. The leaching solution is circulated several times to allow leaching of the metals.
Solid-Liquid Separation – The leaching solution is drained and stored for reuse. The glass cullet is then rinsed several times to remove any residual semiconductor material that physically remains on the glass.
Glass Rinsing/Packaging – Once rinsed, the cleaned glass is packaged for reuse in new glass products.
Precipitation - The metal-rich liquid from the first rinse is pumped to the precipitation unit to recover the metals.
Dewatering - The precipitated materials are concentrated in a thickening tank. The resulting metal-rich filter cake is packaged for separation and refining by a third party to create semiconductor material for use in new modules.