Arizona company plans $344 million Georgia factory to make recycled glass for solar panels

Feb 16, 2024, 5:00 PM

Solarcycle announced Thursday that it would build a $344 million factory in northwest Georgia. (Solarcycle Photo)

(Solarcycle Photo)

CEDARTOWN, Ga. (AP) — An Arizona company that recycles solar panels announced Thursday that it would build a $344 million factory in northwest Georgia, for the first time expanding to making new glass for panels.

Arizona-based Solarcycle said it would hire more than 600 workers in Cedartown, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, for a factory opening in 2026.

The company was founded in 2022 and opened its first recycling facility in Odessa, Texas. Earlier this month, the company opened a headquarters, research lab and second recycling facility in Mesa, Arizona, hiring more than 100 people.

Solarcycle says its automated recycling process can extract materials worth 95% of a solar panel’s value, including silver, silicon, copper and aluminum. Solarcycle said would be able to recycle 1 million solar panels in Cedartown. Then it plans to make enough glass to make solar panels that could produce 5 gigawatts a year of electricity, using a combination of recycled glass and raw material. Solarcycle said it would sell the glass to companies that make solar panels in the United States.

Last week, South Korean-owned Qcells, which makes solar panels in nearby Dalton, said it had contracted with Solarcycle to recycle decommissioned Qcells panels in the United States. Solarcycle said it has similar contracts with more than 40 other solar energy companies.

The company chose Cedartown to be close to domestic solar panel makers, spokesperson Brooke Havlik said, saying the location offers rail and shipping infrastructure and workers.

Solarcycle has raised tens of millions of dollars from private investors for expansion, and Havlik said the Cedartown factory would largely be funded through private investment.

The company has also received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund research and development, and Havlik said the companies that buy Solarcycle’s glass are expanding, “largely driven by incentives and tailwinds” created by Biden administration actions.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock credited President Joe Biden’s clean energy and healthcare law, the Inflation Reduction Act, with spurring Solarcycle’s investment, saying Georgians continue “to reap its benefits.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, though, has argued that Georgia’s business environment deserves credit for attacting companies like Solarcycle and Qcells. Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said the company approached state economic recruiters at a trade show.

“Solarcycle provides a critical piece to the integrated solar supply chain we are building in Georgia,” Wilson said in a statement.

Solarcycle didn’t say how much workers will make, only describing pay and benefits as “competitive.”

The company could qualify for $9 million in state income tax credits, at $3,000 per job over five years, as long as workers make at least $31,300 a year. The company will also receive property tax breaks from Cedartown and Polk County, said Chris Thomas, the president and CEO of the Development Authority of Polk County, but he did not provide an estimate. Solarcycle said Georgia will also pay to train workers.

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Arizona company plans $344 million Georgia factory to make recycled glass for solar panels