Build Your Own Solar Panels

  • Project Type:Solar Power (PV)
  • Project Submitter:
Build Your Own Solar Panels

Learn how to build your own solar panel from every day components. This step by step building plane will enable you to understand the basic concepts of how solar panels are created and how they work.

This is not “How to make PV Solar Cells”. It is possible to home-make Copper Oxide and other kinds of materials but that is a whole nother story which I may do in the future.

I may be a little bit ambitious to try to show you how I made PV Solar panels out of various types of cells I collected and how and where I obtained them rather inexpensively, and some of the differences in the various kinds, but most of all, how to work with them to get free electricity under the light of the sun and other sources of light.

In essence, this involves ways to connect cells, which may produce more or less than one volt, and not only try to increase power output but also decrease the load, that is, efficiently conserve the energy whether it is meager or significant. For example, even the weakest solar panels can run watches, calculators, radios, charge batteries, and if a computer were specifically designed to, it would be as solar-powerable as a calculator.

Components, Suppliers & Sources

What you may be able to use to build a useful solar panel:

“Broken” solar cells. They are very cheap and they work, they are just randomly shaped. They are usually crystalline silicon ones, which ALWAYS (ha!) look broken even when they are not.

Surplus solar cells. Amorphous silicon printed on glass (check) are excellent, usually producing more than a volt, and much sturdier than the thin ones that break in bulk quantities. If these break, we can fix them, usually.

Indium Copper Selenide Cells. These are “new” and are conveniently sold as glass tiles with easy to solder tabs.

Any of the above, sold as cells prepared for assembly into panels; in other words, complete and solder – ready or with wires and tabs. (I will explain how to prepare inferior quality cells in this instructable.)

Miscellaneous items:
Wire Glue – There is already another instructable for using wire glue on Broken solar cells. (link)

Brass extrusions, bracket |_| shaped – Convenient for connecting to glass cells.

Soldering Iron – low wattage
Small flat-head screwdriver
Thin (around 20 AWG or less) stranded copper wire

Lamp cord or Speaker Wire
Alligator clips

Deep Picture Frames or Shadow Boxes (Enclosure)
-look for imported frames at the El Cheapo store and pray a machine made them

Acrylic/Lexan/Plexiglas/Etc clear polymer sheets
Router or Dremel to cut out the middle of one out of three sheets
RTV (Silicone Glue) – or :
High Temperature Hot Melt Glue (Caution-you don’t want the sun to melt it!)

Rectifier Diode such as 1N4001 or 1N4004

Voltage doubler or multiplier circuits (you can make) to increase voltage output.
-examples: ICL7660, MAX1044, MAX232, etc.

Wide Sticky Tape
Double Sticky Foam Tape

Rechargeable Nickel Batteries
Gel Cells or Car Battery (you got one, might as well use it until it’s useless)
-Li Ion not recommended because they are harder to charge

Analog volt meter (only because it doesn’t need batteries like a digital one)

AC Inverter – if you are charging a powerful battery and would occasionally run some mains-powered appliance. Some UPS’s can be easily modified to be inverters, if they can be turned on after a power failure.

Other sources:
Cheap weather damaged solar powered outdoor night lights
-(common failures are circuit corrosion and defective batteries, not the solar cells)
Defective solar calculators, solar charged flashlights, etc.

Perhaps a little off topic:
For a reasonably good deal on Complete and Useful Solar Panels I recommend “Solar Car Battery Chargers” that are about 1 or 2 watts and between 20 and 30, whenever an opportunity to get some arises. But those are what I am trying to show how to Make an approximate equivalent of.

Materials You'll Need:

Step-By-Step Guide:

Project Image Gallery: