Panel recycling is now a reality in Spain, FCC Ámbito completes the authorisation process for Cadrete facility (Zaragoza)

Following the successful completion of the start-up tests, the Aragonese Institute for Environmental Management (Instituto Aragonés de Gestión Ambiental) has granted final authorisation to FCC Ámbito’s photovoltaic panel recycling plant. Located in Cadrete, Zaragoza, this is the first industrial photovoltaic panel recycling facility to start operating in Spain, thus offering the photovoltaic sector a solution for recycling its panels, both those that reach their end of life and those that for various reasons become waste during the process of installing or operating the farms.

Detail of recycling process

The plant, located in an area with major solar facilities, is integrated into FCC Ámbito’s glass recycling activity, therefore achieving direct recovery of the glass, main material of the panels, and a high level of competitiveness due to the efficiency of its subsequent management. The treatment technology is exclusively mechanical, which is environmentally more sustainable as it does not generate any waste flow other than the materials that make up the panels. It should be noted that during the tests, the material recovery rate exceeded 95%, above the percentage established by the regulations, which is an important achievement that guarantees those responsible for the management of these elements compliance with their legislative obligations and the integration of their processes into the circular economy.

In addition, and linked to this activity, the PV4INK R&D&I project is being developed, led by FCC Ámbito, whose objective is to recover the silver contained in photovoltaic panels and its use in high-value applications, which will increase the rate of valorization and also recover a strategic element for the energy transition.

The commissioning of this facility is an important milestone in the research and development process initiated by FCC Ámbito more than 10 years ago in this field, with the aim of strategically positioning itself in the management and recycling of emerging waste derived from the energy transition. This activity joins other initiatives in the renewables and mobility sector, such as the recycling of wind turbine blades, developed through the subsidiary EnergyLoop created jointly with Iberdrola, and the treatment and recovery of batteries, for the development of which it also has an alliance with Iberdrola and the raw materials multinational Glencore. These are complex wastes that pose major challenges for their management, such as being made of highly technological composite materials that guarantee their durability in demanding conditions and outdoors, or containing high-value materials that must be recovered at the end of their cycle to make it possible to achieve the ambitious objectives of the energy transition.

This facility is also part of FCC Medio Ambiente’s 2050 Sustainability Strategy, a 30-year business development roadmap based on four lines of action: environmental, social, excellence and governance. With the management of the increasingly abundant WEEE waste, FCC Ámbito seeks to reinforce the environmental axis through the promotion of circular economy, in order to achieve the European Union’s waste recovery targets for 2035.

FCC Ámbito is a subsidiary of FCC Servicios Medio Ambiente specialising in the comprehensive management of industrial and commercial waste, recovery of by-products and decontamination of soil. It has a total of 39 treatment centres in Spain and Portugal, with more than 68 processing lines that guarantee the performance of the facilities.

FCC Servicios Medio Ambiente is the FCC Group company that has been providing municipal services and end-to-end waste management for 120 years, serving more than 66 million people in 5,200 municipalities around the world. The company manages 24.6 million tonnes of waste and produces 6.35 million tonnes of secondary raw materials and refuse-derived fuel. The company boasts more than 800 operational waste management facilities, of which nearly 200 are environmental compounds dedicated to waste treatment and recycling, including 15 waste-to-energy projects with a capacity of 3.6 million tonnes per year and 435 MW of non-fossil electricity.