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Solar technology is improving quickly, so many people are upgrading their solar panels to new, more efficient models. But when they do, their old solar panels often end up in a landfill.

Rich Stromberg says that’s a waste. Even after 20 years of use, most solar panels have a lot of life left.

“These assets still produce 80% power, so why are we throwing them away?” he says.

Stromberg is director of Equitable Solar Solutions – a program of the nonprofit Coldharbour Institute. His group finds ways to reuse solar panels.

The idea for the program started when Stromberg was working with a class at Western Colorado University. He gave the students a dozen used solar panels.

“And I said, ‘How can we use these assets to create the greatest value for those in our community with the greatest need?’” Stromberg says.

The students convinced the city of Gunnison to install the panels on a local ice rink and to direct the money saved on its utility bills to an energy assistance program for low-income residents.

Now Equitable Solar Solutions helps install donated solar panels on the homes of low-income people who are struggling with high electric bills.

Stromberg says this program extends the benefits of renewable energy to those who need it most.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media