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ENGIE Green, the CEA, and startup SolReed join forces for longer-lasting solar panels

Startup SolReed is developing an all-in-one monitoring, maintenance, and repair unit for solar power plants that will extend solar panel lifespans. The CEA, active in solar energy, is assisting SolReed through its startup incubator. ENGIE Green, France's leading solar energy company, has also supported SolReed since the startup was founded.​

Published on 27 March 2024

Achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050 will require more renewable energy, faster. And, as a major source of renewable energy, solar power is one of the pillars of the transition. Finding solutions to improve solar plant performance and extend solar panel lifespans is crucial. 

The CEA is a leading center for research to advance low-carbon energy. The organization's solar campus in Le Bourget du Lac, France, has been innovating for a more sustainable, responsible solar industry for more than fifteen years, with research addressing the entire lifecycle, from eco-design and advanced lifecycle analysis to end-of-life product management.

As a catalyst for innovation, one of the CEA's missions is to transfer new technologies to businesses, and the organization's Magellan startup program has been helping bring the SolReed project to maturity for more than eighteen months.

Half of all solar panels recycled could be repaired: SolReed's ambition is to solve this major problem. The CEA has been helping SolReed develop a response based on identifying faults on solar panels and improving panel repairability. The processes developed will be scaled up for widespread deployment on the solar energy market. Leading French solar company ENGIE Green was won over by the idea very early on and kicked off a joint project with SolReed in March 2024.

Repairing solar panels at scale

​Every year, tens of thousands of faulty solar panels are recycled in France alone. According to IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), the amount of solar waste produced in Europe will rise to 6 million tons by 2040. The CEA's innovation experts helped SolReed measure the capacity of a solar panel repair industry to reduce this waste, a topic also of interest to ENGIE Green, a TED*-certified company committed to making its plants more sustainable. 

ENGIE Green provided several hundred faulty solar panels of different makes and models so that SolReed could conduct a root-cause analysis. CEA experts leveraged their advanced characterization capabilities to probe the faulty modules, contributing multidisciplinary expertise in materials engineering, electrical engineering, control algorithms, and electronics. ENGIE Green is focusing on scaleup and will validate the project's industrial viability and market potential.  

A laboratory-scale analysis and repair process was successfully implemented on around 100 solar panels in the summer of 2023, demonstrating the relevance and reproducibility of SolReed's solution.  

Improving solar power plant maintenance


Identifying faulty solar modules among the thousands that make up solar power plants—a prerequisite to any maintenance or repair operations—is currently a major challenge due to the lack of information on solar panel health during operation. Drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras could offer a potential solution, as defects and signs of sub-par performance would be visible in the images captured. ENGIE Green and SolReed are working together to more regularly and accurately identify which panels need servicing or repair using patented CEA innovations to aid in decision making.

​Better-performing, lower-carbon solar plants

To maintain optimal output, it is important to replace faulty modules as soon as they are identified. This sounds easier than it is, however. Solar panels are evolving rapidly, and integrating them into plants is becoming increasingly complex as new panel sizes and outputs are released on the market. Custom modules could help solve this problem, but at a hefty financial cost. Repairing existing modules would make it possible to simply return a faulty panel to its original position in a plant.

The SolReed concept is an end-to-end maintenance solution that covers dismantling, troubleshooting, repair, and reassembly services, all delivered by a self-contained mobile unit on site at the solar plant. 

The project partners will also compare the lifecycle analyses of solar panels with and without the repair option to better understand the impacts of SolReed's solution on total solar power plant GHG emissions.

William Arkwright: “This partnership is a natural extension of our commitment to recycling our solar panels. It will bring us the crucial missing links of repair and reuse. It is also 100% aligned with our strategy of optimizing renewable energy production at scale while lengthening equipment lifespans."

​François Legalland, CEO, CEA-Liten: “The sustainability of the solar industry and end-of-life product management are at the center of our research and innovation programs at the CEA. This partnership is all about positive synergies between the CEA, a major European center for research; SolReed, a pioneering startup and future market leader; and ENGIE, a powerhouse in its industry. Together, we have demonstrated a strong commitment to a sustainable energy transition and a more responsible approach to renewable energy."


*TED: Sustainable Energy Transition certification delivered by Bureau Veritas, France.

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