Solar Startup Award 2024 goes to Solar Materials for recycling tech

Solar Startup Award 2024 Solar Materials recycling

Photo: SolarPower Europe


March 7, 2024



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March 7, 2024



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Solar Materials won the Solar Startup Award 2024 for its pioneering recycling solution. It developed a recycling technology that allows the recovery of raw materials from solar panels at a 98% rate and with an 80% lower carbon footprint.

The Solar Startup Award is an annual prize presented in recognition of groundbreaking steps that solar innovators are taking towards a renewables-based energy system, SolarPower Europe said.

The solar industry has been often criticized for the lack of recycling solutions, as photovoltaic waste is piling up and its use of raw materials is mounting. Photovoltaic waste is expected to rise to between 60 and 80 million tons by 2050.

There has been zero recovery of silver and silicon from solar panels so far

According to Solar Materials, a cleantech startup from Magdeburg, Germany, over 100 million tons of solar panels have been installed worldwide until now and the expansion is expected to multiply by 2030.

“The solar industry already consumes over 10% of global silver production. At the same time, the recovery rate for silver and silicon from solar panels has been 0%,” the startup said.

According to the firm, no commercial recycling process can yet economically recover all raw materials from solar panels.

Franke: Our technology works like reverse production

At the SolarPower Summit 2024 in Brussels, Fridolin Franke, CEO and Co-founder of Solar Materials, presented his pitch alongside his co-finalists. He outlined that the company’s recycling process recovers all raw materials, with silver being the key value driver.

The startup claims its patented recycling technology recovers 98% of raw materials in silicon solar panels.

“With thermo-mechanical processes we automatically separate the different components of solar panels from each other. Our technology works like a reverse production instead of the classical shredding and sorting approach of the recycling industry,” the firm explained on its website.

It focuses particularly on the economic recovery of silver and silicon as well as high-quality glass, alongside aluminum, copper and plastics.

Solar Startup Award 2024 Solar Materials recycling panels
Photo: Solar Materials

Franke: The solar industry really cares about recycling

After receiving the award, Fridolin Franke claimed winning it shows the solar industry really cares about recycling and that sustainability is not just a buzzword.

“The award is the perfect stage to introduce our recycling solution to the European solar industry and connect with decision makers from science, industry, and politics,” he added.

Only with such pioneering innovators can the solar sector grow sustainably and play its part in the green transition, according to CEO of SolarPower Europe Walburga Hemetsberger,

The jury panel for the Solar Startup Award 2024 comprised Jenny Chase, Solar Analyst at BloombergNEF; Stefan Müeller, Co-founder, Shareholder and Board Member at Enerparc AG; Felix Krause, Managing Partner at Viero Ventures; and Michael Schmela, Director of Market Intelligence at SolarPower Europe.

Of note, SolarPower Europe recently released a report titled End-of-Life Management: Best Practice Guidelines.

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