December 16, 2011 10:50 pm

Who wouldn’t like a few free solar panels? Actually, quite a few people. Anyone who has limited space and wants to optimize energy conversion, people who want a matching system that looks perfect and people who aren’t willing or able to fix hardware issues.

For anyone else, there are actually several great ways to find and procure free solar panels for your house, mobile home or energy project. All you need is some spare time, a positive personality and a willingness to do a little fix-it work. Once you’ve scored these most expensive components of a solar PV system you’ll have taken one giant step closer to generating your own power.

  • 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. In many cases these panels are recycled but sometimes they are given away or discounted at a steep rate with no warranty. Though these panels won’t perform as well as their perfectly-produced counterparts, they will still produce electricity.
  • 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. The same type of people who put panels on their house 10 years ago when solar wasn’t so mainstream are usually the thoughtful, sharing type who will hook you up as they get ready to upgrade!
  • Use social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace to let people know that you’re looking for free panels. You never know who people may know and it never hurts to ask.
  • 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 again by soldering the wires back in place. If you do attempt this type of repair be sure to consult an expert and be careful to avoid personal or property injury.
  • Look up solar PV system installers and retailers and ask if they have any damaged panels that they are willing to give away for free. Since they sell new panels to customers wanting to replace their old ones, they will often 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. So one way or another you’ll  make solar happen for your home!

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