Connecting Multiple Solar Panels
There are 3 ways to connect solar panels; parallel, series, and a combination of parallel and series. The first way I am going to talk about is parallel because this is probably the most common way that panels will be connected. For this example I am showing you connecting panels that are for a 12 volt system. This is how the panels that I have built in my other instructables are connected, and feed my solar charge controller.
In this first image there are 3 solar panels. If you look at the arrows along the white and red lines they are showing the direction of flow. The white line is the negative connection, all 3 panel negative wires are just simply tied together and to the wire that runs back to the negative connection on the charge controller.
The red line is the positive connection to the panels. You will see a symbol that looks like a triangle pointing down at a horizontal line. That symbol is for a diode, also known as a blocking diode. What this diode is doing is only allowing the positive electrons to flow in only one direction. When looking at this symbol the triangle points in the direction of flow, when looking at the diode in your hand there should be a colored line around one end of it. This line represents the line in the symbol that the triangle is pointing to. The non-colored end would be the “in” side, and the end with the colored line around it would be the “out” side. By installing these diodes on each panel it stops the electrons from going back into other panels. Diodes also use up a small amount of voltage, so don't go crazy and put to many in or you will to low to use.
If you look below the panel to the left you can follow the red arrows from the panel down and make a right turn to the diode. Then they continue through the diode and down the line to the end where they would be connected to a solar charge controller.
In this next step you can see that the left panel is covered, let’s say that a tree was blocking the sun from this panel. If you look below this panel at the red line you will see that there are no arrows coming from the panel to the right hand bend. And if you look to the right of the diode symbol you can see that the arrows have changed direction from the previous step. This is how the diode works. The diode is stopping the electrons from pushing their way back to the panel that is not producing power. If this diode was not in place then the panel not producing could be damaged. Also you would be losing some efficiency from the other panels because they would be letting power flow through the nonproducing panel as the electrons are trying to reach the negative side of the panel.