Solar Panels: Cheap, Free, or DIY?

I would first like to give credit to and for the following information on how to obtain cheap/free solar panels and guides on how to make your own solar panels!

If you live in the Triangle Area, then it is almost certain that you have seen solar panels at either a construction site or on top of street signs. Most often, these are used for low power LED lights so that new traffic signs are more noticeable and so that everyone knows that there is a lane shift or some other issue ahead. For the city and state to continue using solar panels, however, they need to be efficient and effective. So when the relatively fragile solar panels catches a rock on its front face or if they simply age past their prime efficiency, the state is required to swap out the panels.

This means that otherwise decent panels are hauled off, because it is easier to replace than it is to repair. These panels are the panels we will be using.

*CAUTION* It is often times illegal to stop on the side of the highway to look at these panels, so practice safety and caution.

Step one is to obtain all the contact information you can; names and phone numbers will become extremely important. This allows you to look up the companies who supply the DOT with solar panels.

Step two is to actually visit these places, as you will have a much greater chance of walking out with solar panels if you have a face to face meeting, instead of a phone conversation. You need to find out where the panels currently are and if they sent them to another company. Always offer money for the panels, as they will appreciate it, and chances are they may be more willing to give them away for free, especially since they can no longer use them. Even if you end up paying for panels, you will end up saving several hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands.

Step three is to test them with a multimeter. This way you can determine if they are worth using or repairing.

Step four is determining where to place and/or mount the panels. More guides can be found on, however, to keep it simple, they have to generally be facing true south and at a certain angle (45 degrees seems to be best for most situations); your panels don’t have to fit the angles or be facing true south, but they are more accurate they closer you get to these positions.

If you are a DIY person, solar cells can be purchased, and with the good backing and patience, you can make your own panels, which cuts out the middle man. A more in depth guide can be found at

With all this information, I hope y’all are more empowered to begin moving away from Duke Energy and in to a more autonomous, energy independent life!



Cheap/Free Solar Panels:

DIY Solar:

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