Sept. 16, 2021
Recycling at Creative Energies
By Hayley Walker
As a certified Benefit Corporation (B-Corp), Creative Energies is always trying to find ways to improve as a business. As we like to say, we strive for progress, not perfection because there is always room to be and do better. Whether it is continually honing our craft, growing and expanding our employee benefits, or finding creative ways to reuse and recycle materials, there are always ample opportunities to continue learning and growing as a company and as a community.
We believe in taking responsibility for the lifespan of the materials we utilize for solar installations and daily business operations. While solar panels and systems themselves are known to be reliably low-maintenance and generally last up to 25 years, there can come a time when broken or damaged panels are no longer usable for their intended purpose of generating energy from the sun. Finding recycling solutions for these materials, and for our offices in general, is an important part of our daily business operations.
Our intention is to source and dispose of materials responsibly to help reduce the amount of waste in our landfills, to further reduce our impact on the environment, and to better support working conditions within the communities of people that make harnessing solar energy possible.
Solar Panel Recycling
Creative Energies uses Cascade Eco Minerals (CEM) to recycle panels that are no longer functional. CEM specializes in solar panel glass recycling, which accounts for 72% of the material that makes up a solar panel. While CEM specializes in glass recycling, they also ensure all materials of the solar panel get reused or recycled either into new panels or for other industrial applications. The overall objective is to encourage a more circular economy where resources are not simply thrown out, but rather put back into use even if in a different form. CEM maintains a zero-landfill policy, meaning any materials they themselves cannot recycle get transferred to partner companies that can.
According to CEM, they are “the only solar panel processor that provides complete in-house solar panel recycling and remineralization.” After holding onto old panels for quite some time, waiting until we found a responsible way to dispose of them, we recently made our first shipment of 180 panels (7,275 lbs) to CEM to be recycled and repurposed. Creative Energies is excited to utilize CEM services as we continue to find solutions within our company that support a more circular economy.
Energy Efficiency at Our Offices
Creative Energies’ offices in Wyoming and Salt Lake City are both nearly net-zero energy. In Salt Lake City we converted a former print shop into a modern, energy-efficient office space and warehouse with lighting upgrades, improved insulation, and a 23 kW solar power system. This allows a 50-year-old building to provide all of its own electricity, minus the use of natural gas for supplemental heating in the winter.
In Lander, WY, our office is a 70-year-old ranch house that is entirely zero net energy. With the help of an energy-efficient and passive solar design, a ground source heat pump for heating and cooling, a solar hot water system, and a 4 kW solar PV system, the building actually produces more energy than it uses annually.
Recycling at Our Offices
Our Salt Lake City office strives to collect, recycle, and responsibly dispose of as much material as we can. The goal is to maximize the positive impact of enabling homes and businesses to switch to renewable energy while minimizing our overall impact on the environment as a business. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our recycling efforts.
Creative Energies currently collects, sorts, and recycles:
- Food waste in our break room
- Regular city-wide mixed recycling
- Photovoltaic wire (PV wire)
- THHN wire (insulated copper wire)
- Aluminum wire
- Coated aluminum
- Bare aluminum
- Plastic bags
- Bare copper
- PVC pipe
- Lead-acid & lithium-ion batteries