With their hefty price tag, solar panels are likely the one part holding you back from building your own solar photovoltaic system if you’re short on money. But with diligence and persistence you can find panels for free just by making some calls and surfing around on the web. Once you’ve scored these most expensive components of a solar PV system, you’re one big step closer to owning your own system.
- Look up solar cell manufacturers online, then call them up and ask if they have any defective panels. If when testing, the manufacturer discovers a panel doesn’t perform up to spec, it will not be sold. If they’re not willing to give it away, you may be able to purchase it at a deep discount. Though these panels won’t perform as well as their perfectly produced counterparts, they will still produce electricity for you, in some cases nearly as much.
- Scan Craigslist, Kijiji and Freecycle for freebies that people are giving away. While you’re on those sites, put ads up yourself asking for free panels, offering to come pick them up.
- Use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to let people know that you’re looking for free panels. You never know who people may know.
- Contact government highway departments and road construction companies to see if they have any damaged solar panels that they’re giving away. Panels used to power traffic lights or signs sometimes get hit by drivers and break. If you’re handy with electronics, you might be able to get them working as good as new.
- Look up solar PV system installers and retailers and ask if they have any damaged panels that they’re willing to give away for free. Since they sell new panels to customers wanting to replace their old ones, they’ll have access to old panels. Propose a trade: you do the work to remove the old panels in exchange for keeping them. You could also barter your other skills. Who knows, they might need their office painted or windows cleaned. It never hurts to ask!
If all your attempts at procuring free solar panels fail or you aren’t able to spend the time and put in the effort to do the work, consider getting a solar PV system installed for free through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement. In these arrangements, a solar energy provider such as SunRun installs a system in your home for free. They own the system and sell energy to you at a discounted rate. One way or another you’ll make solar happen for your home!
[box]by UB Hawthorn[/box]
image: Chandra Marsono (Creative Commons BY-SA)