Picture of Building a Solar Panel From Cells
A goal of mine is to have a constant, reliable, free, clean, source of flammable gas at my house.  This is proving to be quite a challenge.  I have been breaking water into hydrogen and oxygen for quite some time, so that is the route I chose.

In this Instructable I will show you how I constructed small solar panels for use in my larger Solar Hydrogen Generation project that I will post later.  This Instructable will focus solely on how I assembled cells purchased online into functional panels.

The steps in this Instructable will include the following:
  • Step 1 - Materials
  • Step 2 - Building Part 1 - Soldering Leads to the Front Side
  • Step 3 - Building Part 2 - Soldering Leads to the Back Side
  • Step 4 - Building Part 3 - Final Assembly
  • Step 5 - Conclusion
*This Instructable involves the use of power tools.  As with any project, be smart.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and the judges of the 2011 Green Living and Technology Contest!!  I am honored to have won second prize, thanks!!
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Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed
The materials I used to build my solar panels are as follows:
  • Solar Cells - I purchased mine from Electronic Goldmine.  They often have sales on different cells.  I chose some cells that were about 4"x4" (4 inches wide by 4 inches tall) that give off about 0.5 volts.  I don't remember the amperage of the cells, but I remember it being fairly high, which is why I chose them, as electrolysis works well with low voltage and high current.
              The Electronic Goldmine site is here:
  • Solar Cell Ribbon.  I also bought this from Electronic Goldmine.  It is very thin, flat wire that is great for soldering to the solar cells.  You can get away with using thin wire though.
  • Picture Frames - I bought the biggest ones available at the dollar store, which held 8.5"x11" pictures, the size of copy paper.  I used two for this project to fit all my cells.
  • Foam Rubber Sheet - I bought this at the craft store to use in various projects.  It is available in multiple thicknesses for less than a dollar for a decent sized sheet.  I meant for this to help keep moisture away from the cells, which you will see later.
  • Plywood - I am using thin, 1/8" (one-eighth of an inch) thick plywood that I salvaged from some wooden pallets.
  • Matching Nuts and Bolts - I am using stainless steel nuts and bolts that can be found at any home improvement store.  I chose to use stainless steel because they will be out in potentially rough weather, and I want them to hold up.

You will also need some tools, as following:
  • Soldering Iron and Solder
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw or other tool to cut plywood
  • Dremel rotary tool - optional but helpful
  • Sharp knife, screw drivers, various hand tools
flashj3 years ago
I'm glad your project didn't start with "Go to your county road crew and ask them for broken solar cells and tell them they're for your kid's science project" I don't know where those people are, but they don't fall for that here. Solar cells are expensive and most road crew managers have hired people who know how to use a soldering gun. /rant off

Idea: In the same Instructables email that featured this, there was a link for folding cardboard blinds, I'd love to see the two projects merged into a blind for my windows that can also generate electricity!

Or how about those cardboard window shades you buy for your car? Might be enough to power a window mounted fan to help cool the interior...

thanks for the 'structable!

flashj thanks for the interesting post re: blinds. I have thought about this for YEARS. Not being an inventor just someone who thinks it is a great idea. Actually there is an Austrian Company doing just is the link to Nanergy Inc.

fozzy13 (author)  flashj3 years ago
Thanks for commenting!! : )

I didn't know there was a chance of road crews giving me broken solar cells. I'm pretty tempted to try to find some now : )

The window blinds that generate electricity is an awesome idea!! Plus, that's something that anyone could put up in their house to cut electricity costs.

Thanks again, This has been entered into the Green Living Contest by the way : )
static fozzy133 years ago
The chance of getting broken solar cells from tour county road department first depends if they use portable signs solar power lighted signs during construction. Also there has be an accident to break the solar panel. In the event the solar panel is one that uses encapsulation of some type repair, or removing broken cells will be nearly impossible. I suspect many are quoting a tip from the book sunshine to dollars. While a good book with tips that are pretty much universal, it does contain tips that are relative. Relative to one's own location.
Good idea. Only issue that I can see is where the bends are. I have an idea for that but it would make the construction cost go up a bit. You could use the cells from old solar powered calculators. They are narrow enough to fit.

I have 20 or 30 solar powered garden lamps. Some work some don't. The lamp may not work but the solar cells still do. Join a local freecycle group and I bet you could get all the Non working solar powered garden lamps you need. I was into using the calculator solar cells for beambots awhile back. Old Non working pagers are a good source of motors too.
Good luck!
static3 years ago
While the following isn't intended to be a reflection on the quality of this instructable, I have feel many including the instructable's author find the information interesting, if not helpful. Dan Rojas on his you tube channel greenpowerscience has a series of videos where he constructed a 45 Watt solar panel from broken solar cell for around a dollar a Watt. A somewhat intensive to be sure, and not for the timid DIYer, but the result is a very solid build.
static3 years ago
Perhaps you mentioned it, and I missed it, but did you install a blocking diode? Not necessary for your intended application, but necessary for those who duplicate your project intending to charge batteries.
fozzy13 (author)  static3 years ago
I did not install a blocking diode, only because I did not need it for my application. Thanks for the comment!! : )
Thank you so very much for this instructable. I purchsased the exact same solar cells from Electronic Goldmine but I found the instructions to be a little too minimal. When I tried to scrape off the coating I ended up breaking the cells also. But never having soldered I could not get them soldered to the little ribbons. I was also unsure whether the back or front was the anode side.
With your instructable I will try again. Electronic Goldmine should link the sale page for these cells to your instructable; it is very well made. Thank You!
fozzy13 (author)  dustyhoffsky3 years ago
Thanks!! It means a lot to think that I'm helping someone really complete their project. Good luck, and make sure to post pictures or something on Instructables when you're done!!
Thanks for commenting!! : )

This has been entered into the Green Living Contest by the way : )
mistic3 years ago
I was fortunate. Found a Target store selling solar powered lights for $1.00 ea.
I dis-sembled a few to get at the solar array which conveniently had the cells already wired and protected. then connected them in series - black wire to red wire ,etc. This set gave me as follows: 6v at 100ma. very low cost............
fozzy13 (author)  mistic3 years ago
That sounds excellent!! I wish I had been able to come across cheap panels like that. Thanks for commenting!! : ) This has been entered into the Green Living Contest by the way : )
squishoso3 years ago
Hey There!!

Awesome green project!! I`ve seen solar panels like these at my University!!

Also, congrats on the feature!! =D I`ve received this link on the newsletter via E-mail and man! I feel kinda proud of knowing you for your other past projects! xD
fozzy13 (author)  squishoso3 years ago
Thanks!! It's an honor to be featured in the newsletter. I've actually been working pretty hard on improving the quality of my Instructables, so when I got the email saying that I was featured I was really excited.

Thanks for commenting, this has been entered in the Green Living Contest as well, so remember to vote! (hopefully for me) : )
How much money and time did you spend in all? I am excited to build my own solar panels, just trying to budget.
fozzy13 (author)  ShannonFloyd3 years ago
The cells themselves were the most expensive part. For this project alone, I think I spent around $40 for the cells? The picture frames, wires, and foam sheets were only a few dollars total. It didn't take me too long to assemble it all either, call it 2-4 hours?

Thanks for commenting!! : )

This has been entered into the Green Living Contest by the way : )
bulwynkl3 years ago
Hi - been considering this sort of thing for a while, both for home (suburban melbourne) and my fathers country property.

the biggest concern I have is Hail and similar nasty weather... so I would like to armour the panel with strong glass - so - does anyone know what glass would be suitable?
Fibreglass would be the best
but it is unlikely to be transparent...

the glass goes in front of the cells.

it must be thick enough and tough enough to withstand the elements and protect the cells from damage.

Ideally it must let as much solar radiation of interest through as possible.

Most window glass - Borax glass - absorb significant amounts of UV. Pure silica glass is very expensive - perhaps Lime glass would work as a compromise...

what do they use in commercial panels?
fozzy13 (author)  bulwynkl3 years ago
You seem to know more about glass than I do, but if I were you I might look into automotive glass, like that used for the windshields of cars. Considering car windshields can take a lot of damage it might not be a bad idea.

Thanks for commenting!! : )

This has been entered into the Green Living Contest by the way : )
They use a 1/4 inch glass. and then they seal the cells with a clear flexible epoxy like the dow 6100 Solar cell Encapsulant and then they cover the back with a layer of heat shrink plastic like TPE or EVA.
Hellow sir!
The class that would be suitable for your project would be 1/4 inch glass. Professional company's use 1/4 glass in all of their solar panels. You can also use 1/4 inch plexi glass and that will never brake but just be cautioned about warping in the great heat :D

penguini883 years ago
Super cool! I'm almost finished with my project for the Green Living and Technology Challenge. By the way how many of these do you have at your house?
fozzy13 (author)  penguini883 years ago
Thanks!! That's great, I'd love to see your entry : ). I have two panels like the one shown here at my house, and then I have another small panel that I made from glass-covered cells.
Thanks for commenting! : )
SHIFT!3 years ago
Nice job! Just curious, what was the output on this device?
fozzy13 (author)  SHIFT!3 years ago
Thanks! The final output was roughly 4 volts at 100 mA. If I had not broken so many cells in the process, my output could have been much better, but it was good to go through the building process nonetheless.

Thanks for commenting! : ) By the way, this has been entered into the Green Living and Technology Challenge.