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Absolutely Necessary Prize / Next Generation Renewables Prize / MMHG Energy Prize / The Power of Sun Prize / Open-Source Prize

Fair, circular solar panel

Biosphere Solar


Photovoltaics is the energy source of the future, but also creates a massive waste stream. Biosphere Solar is a global collective developing a fair and circular solar panel. This way, we aim to set a new design standard for the solar industry, making circularity the norm. We are developing a modular PV module design, which can be disassembled for repair or refurbishment, can be upgraded with new technology, and can be recycled at high value at its end-of-life.

Detailed explanation of the submitted project or idea.

In 2020, one of our co-founders uncovered two underappreciated problems with solar: panels are thrown away and downcycled after 15-25 years and ethic minorities in China are building them under forced labor conditions.

More awareness about these problems is emerging, demonstrated by EU sanctions on Chinese solar panels and the many tenders in The Netherlands for circular solar energy. Our work has therefore been recognized as an essential step in realising the energy transition. One of the most simple reasons is that we simply do not have enough silver and high-grade silicon to reach the solar capacity needed for Net Zero in 2050. But equally important: we do not want to leave the world with 318 million tonnes of solar waste each year. As recognition for our work, we have completed the renowned Circular Valley accelerator programme, are mentioned in some of the world’s biggest solar magazines and are partnering up with game-changing companies.

The hardware we develop is open-source, enabling anyone to contribute to the concept. In our production, we avoid human rights violations by working with sustainable and responsible suppliers. The project is currently in the product development stage. Our target is to start pilot production in 2023 and enter the market in 2024.

The glass, cells and connections in solar panels are almost impossible to repair or recycle due to the lamination. We predict that our method can extend the life of the average solar panel from 15 years to 40 years, and the glass, cells and connections can be disassembled easily for recycling. This means that the carbon footprint of panel production is more than halved, and the energy return of our panel will be approximately double that (considering slow degradation over its lifetime) of a conventional solar panel. This makes us interesting for real estate developers, as the evaluation period for a tender can be up to 75 years.


Comments from Judges

Noriko Ishizaka

President of Ishizaka Inc.

Absolutely Necessary Prize

Biosphere Solar is tackling the issue of solar-panel waste with a much-needed circular system that’s open-source and scalable at a global level. The glass in solar panels is currently unrecyclable, so this modular construction works by extending the lifespan of the panels instead. I hope this technology can really take off.

Yeliz Mert

Knowledge Sharing Coordinator at Global Landscapes Forum

Next Generation Renewables Prize

A very exciting project! Especially given how despererately we need to move towards renewables, and how much unspoken problems we have around them (short lifespan of materials, recyclability issues, lack of enough raw materials without damaging valuable forested ecosystems of the world...). I really like that this project is very thorough in their thinking, research and overall approach. They seem very connected to others in this field which is always a good thing, they attiribute high importance to transparency, want to unpack the industry problems in a new way and actively offer solutions, and on top of it all they are engaged in educational activities and raising awareness all along the way. Even catalyzing a European supply chain - love it!

This is not your average renewables project, they want to think further, they want to better the system around them!

Richie Lin

Founder & CEO at MUME Hospitality Group, Head Chef of MUME

MMHG Energy Prize

This is a deeply meaningful project, because solar energy has longtime been regarded as an essential source of energy. If the production of solar energy can be successfully increased, it will not only reduce the use of oil, but also create energy in an environmentally friendly way. The most important part for its continued use is that energy is properly collected from nature, and we feel that the project has done quite well in that aspect, and that there is high room for development in the present or in the future.

Lingchih Yang

FabCafe Toulouse Co-founder

The Power of Sun Prize

Solar power is a sustainable form of energy, but its use is not widespread due to the price of its appliance, the solar panel. This fair, circular solar panel is modulable, reusable, and has an extended product life. These characteristics might appeal to a broader public and encourage people to try to use it instead of current unsustainable power sources. I am looking forward to seeing the regions that have no sufficient power supply, but possess abundant sunlight, using it to solve their energy challenges.

Kotaro Iwaoka

Hidakuma CEO

Open-Source Prize

Solar power plants in rural areas can be a blight on the landscape because they’re often unconnected to the circularity of the land. This is a wonderful project that promotes circularity by giving local people an open-sourced, decentralized and modular system to obtain just enough electricity for their own needs. Because the panels can be maintained and reused by each community, a distinctive local character is preserved.

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