InnoVEX 2023 Winner – TSGC Elevates PV Recycling to Achieve Circular Economy in Solar Panels

 Publish Date :2023/10/02

Contributing Editor: Elroy Yao

The growth of ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) has encouraged businesses and organizations to adopt more solar energy via solar cells. In fact, solar power generation showed the largest absolute generation growth of all renewable technologies in 2022. However, solar panels will inevitably get damaged or become less efficient as they age.

Currently, damaged or old solar panels are mostly disposed of in landfills. Recycling is both expensive and difficult with various toxic or dangerous chemicals and pollutants either being necessary for or emitted due to the process. The stronger push for net zero and environmental protection means conventional disposal or recycling methods need to be improved.

ESG was one of the main focuses of InnoVEX 2023 and to further encourage more startups to pursue this goal, the Pitch Contest included the ESG & Green Tech Award as one of the new special awards. The winner of the ESG & Green Tech Award was TSGC, a Taiwanese startup that focuses on PV (photovoltaic) panel recycling. The team started out as a spin-off from the National University of Tainan with support from the Ministry of Education (MOE), the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). In September 2023, the InnoVEX team had an opportunity to interview Mr. Andrew Chia-Tsung Hung, Co-founder & CEO of TSGC.

“We're dedicated to solar panel recycling solution and our aim is to eliminate the environmental impact from end-of-life solar panels. Our primary focus has been to revolutionize the way end-of-life solar panels are recycled, shifting from the conventional chemical and heat methods to a more sustainable physical method.” Mr. Hung said.

The core strength of TSGC’s PV recycling solutions – PV Circulator is in its integration of physical technologies with AI software systems like Vision based AI, Auto ML, and AIoT; as well as the decentralized advantages of Web3. However, this innovative and novel approach also brought challenges for TSGC. “We had many troubles at first, from securing funding to ensuring compliance with regulations that continue to change from around the world. Our method for physical recycling was also met with skepticism because as you know, most solutions for PV recycling rely on chemical and heat-based processes. We had to make constant efforts to advocate for our unique approach and achieve our vision for a circular economy with solar panels.”

The solar cell recycling industry has become more lucrative with the global industry value expected to reach USD 478.6 million by 2030. However, it remains a niche industry with few players focusing on this industry. “When venturing into niche sectors, it’s essential to stay resilient, especially when facing skepticism or when pitching ideas that challenge industry norms. Trust your unique solutions and continue to refine them because innovations take time to be fully embraced.” Mr. Hung shared.

At the time of writing, the strongest markets for PV recycling are Europe and Asia-Pacific. Having already established a presence in Asia-Pacific, TSGC currently aims to enter the North American and European markets which present equal parts challenges and opportunities for TSGC.

Of course, both Europe and North America regions represent multiple markets of various sizes with different rules and regulations. For Europe, TSGC is establishing a subsidiary in Belgium as a strategic move to tap into the European market. They are also engaging with Swiss officials and partners as part of their expansion strategy, with an upcoming demonstration of their PV Circulator in Europe in early 2024.

TSGC’s main focus for North America will be California, one of the most significant markets in the US. “California’s regulations on banning chemical and thermal methods for solar panel recycling align perfectly with our PV Circulator's features. As California often sets the tone for environmental policies in the US and even influences global standards, it is a strategic location for us. We are currently collaborating with the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and various solar industry partners in the US on the Department of Energy's (DOE) Innovative Clean Energy Program, focusing on solar panel recycling.” Mr. Hung said.

During InnoVEX 2023, TSGC had the opportunity to connect with innovators, industry leaders, VCs, potential partners, and even some users after the Pitch Contest, which provided a substantial boost for their outreach and engagement efforts. The increased awareness and recognition have been instrumental in bolstering TSGC’s growth and furthering their mission of promoting sustainable solar energy practices.

After InnoVEX 2023, TSGC is now developing new capabilities for their PV Circulator that include AI capabilities and a mobile version that can be moved and operated wherever needed, from solar farms to collection points. TSGC is also expanding their Hardware-as-a-Service offering to make their equipment more accessible to recyclers around the world with flexible terms and necessary support for optimal operations.

For startups and teams interested in joining InnoVEX, Mr. Hung shared the following messages, “It's a must-attend for anyone in the innovative tech industry looking to make meaningful connections and stay updated with the latest trends. If you believe in your idea and its potential to create positive change, InnoVEX is the platform to amplify your vision. Take the leap, prepare well, and leverage the incredible networking opportunities.”

The InnoVEX Pitch Contest is one of the mainstays of InnoVEX and is a great opportunity for startups looking to expand their reach and network. For startups aiming to participate in the Pitch Contest, Mr. Hung has this suggestion: “Be authentic and ensure your pitch effectively communicates your value proposition. Don't just focus on the technical details. Weave a narrative that outlines the problem you're addressing, why it matters, and how your solution makes a difference. It's not just about the technology; it's about the impact. Use this platform to connect with customers, potential collaborators, and investors.”

Startups and teams interested in joining InnoVEX 2024 can enjoy the early bird pricing by signing up before January 31, 2024. Register here:

Watch the InnoVEX 2023 recap video here:

About InnoVEX

Started in 2016, InnoVEX is a startup-focused exhibition organized by the Taipei Computer Association (TCA) and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). Positioned as the innovation hub of Asia, InnoVEX is held alongside Asia's leading ICT B2B Tradeshow, COMPUTEX, to connect startups and their innovations to global VCs, CVCs, manufacturing partners, buyers, and media.

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