This is a guest post submitted by Shannon Bell. Want to write an article for SSC? Please use the contact form to start.
Using parts you can get at eBay and a hardware store, plus a step-by-step guide (there are a number of high-quality guides available on the internet), building your own solar panel is a project most people can accomplish over the course of a weekend.
Of course, it would take quite a few homemade solar panels to power your entire home (that’s assuming you have an average-sized American home), but just one homemade solar panel can give you enough energy to run a few small appliances and a couple of light bulbs.
If you build two homemade solar panels, you can generate enough energy to run several appliances and save about 10 – 20% on your electric bill each month.
Supplies for Building Your Own Solar Panel
Supplies for the panel itself:
Photovoltaic solar cells: Go to eBay and run a search for “photovoltaic cells” (PV cells) or “solar cells”.
You’ll find quite a few photovoltaic cells for sale, at varying price ranges, quantities, and quality. You should be aware that broken cells will not generate as much energy as a cell in good shape; however, if a cell is just chipped on the corners, a broken cell provides a good value because it is typically sold at a discount.
The more solar cells you link together to form your panel, the more energy the panel will generate. In order to get enough voltage to charge a battery, you’ll need to chain together 36 – 40 polycrystalline solar cells. In order to do this, you’ll also need:
- Soddering iron (65 W iron is the best choice)
- Tabbing wire
- Bus wire
- Silver sodder wire
- Flux pen
- Blocking diodes
Containing the panel: Once you’ve soddered together 36 or 40 PV cells together, you have made it through the toughest step,
and have created the basis of your solar panels. Because PV cells are extremely delicate, you’ll still need to encase it and seal it in a way that won’t allow in moisture.Your completed panel should generate about 60 – 65 W of electricity, and should cost less than $150.
Other supplies you’ll need: With a solar panel, you’re ready to catch energy from the sun – but what do you do with that energy once
you’ve caught it? In a large-scale solar project, where professional solar panel installers install a solar panel array on your roof and tie your home into the power grid, you don’t have a problem of storing solar energy.
However, unless you’re a trained electrician, tying your homemade solar panels into the grid is a difficult (and potentially dangerous) business. Most homemade solar panels power batteries, which in turn power appliances and lights. To utilize the power from your solar panel, you’ll need:
- A charge controller
- An inverter
- A battery or several batteries (golf cart batteries work well and are easy to find)
Once you’ve assembled all these supplies, you’re ready to build your own solar panel. You’ll save a lot of money doing it this way, but your final product will produce as much – if not more – electricity as a commercial panel of the same size.
Shannon Bell writes for residentialsolarpanels.org a non commercial blog focused on her Photovoltaic experiences to help people understand how and why they should save energy starting investing in solar power. She writes on solar power systems for home to help people learn how to start save energy from the scratch and then apply those experience to the next level.