SHERIDAN – Katie Repsis is not a fan of solar panels.
This may be surprising given that his company name – EOL Solar – literally contains the word “solar,” and his company website features a photo of dozens of solar panels. But, once Repsis explains herself, it’s easy to understand her concerns.
“I have never been a big advocate for solar panels because of the waste factor,” Repsis said. “I knew there wasn’t a lot of pressure to retrain them. At the end of their life, they just go to a landfill somewhere. So that’s a great idea in theory, but ultimately they cause a major problem.
The average lifespan of a solar panel is around 25 years, and 78 million tonnes of solar panel-related waste is expected to go to landfill across the country by 2050, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. .
But what if landfill wasn’t the final destination for solar panels? What if they ended their lives in an art gallery instead?
That’s the idea Logan Jenkins of nonprofit Sheridan Circular Wyoming shared with Repsis at a coffee meeting earlier this spring, and the idea was too enticing to refuse.
“When he first mentioned this I thought it was such a cool idea,” Repsis said. “The solar panels are really big and built to last and to be exposed to the elements, so it really felt like a perfect canvas.”
Months later, Jenkins and Repsis already have their first proof of concept panel – a piece created by Sheridan High School art teacher Ashley Cooper hanging from Bighorn Design’s window. And there’s a lot more on the way, according to Jenkins.
Several artists from Sheridan and surrounding Wyoming are starting to work on scale designs for their own solar panel artwork, with EOL and Circular planning to show the pieces at SAGE Community Arts in September 2022.
Jenkins said the panels have several features that make them an ideal canvas for local artists, including a built-in frame and thread on the back. More importantly, any mistakes made on the glass face of the solar panel can be easily changed and corrected, providing a sense of artistic freedom not possible on other canvases.
The panels are also durable, and Jenkins said he expects Cooper’s piece to last outdoors for five years or more in Wyoming weather, without the need for touch-up.
More importantly, reusing the panels as works of art keeps them out of landfill, which is one of the key goals of the Repsis and Jenkins organizations. EOL Solar is a for-profit company dedicated to finding “second life solutions for solar panels,” Repsis said. Likewise, Circular Wyoming is a non-profit organization focused on “Wyoming-designed solutions to global energy waste problems,” according to Jenkins.
The sky really is the limit of the artistic potential of solar panels, Jenkins and Repsis said. The panels could be combined to create a larger-than-life modular mural – Repsis says it is currently in talks with a local company about this very idea – and Repsis thinks the panels could even replace billboards at at some point.
For now, Repsis has said she is just thrilled to contribute to the arts culture of a community she loves – she recently returned to Sheridan from Fort Collins after growing up here – while cutting down on signage waste. solar at the same time.
“I’ve always been an advocate for the arts, and it’s exciting to be a part of that culture here in a truly unique way,” said Repsis. “It’s really exciting to reuse these panels and turn them into works of art. “