Introduction: DIY Solar Panel

Picture of DIY Solar Panel

Creating a solar panel out of broken re-used solar cell pieces. I ordered a pack of these from (3$ for a bagful of them - you can order here). In addition, you will need some conductive copper mesh (available at most art stores), glue gun + sticks, a multimeter and a conductive pen (or any sort of conductive brush-on - I got my conductive silver pen here). In this tutorial I will try to explain the best technique I found to connect these broken cells, in order to create your own CHEAP solar panel.

Step 1: Get the Solar Cells

Picture of Get the Solar Cells

this is how the cells can look like when they arrive

Step 2: Check Power and Ground

Picture of Check Power and Ground

When you look at the solar cell, make sure you check voltage between the positive side (the back side which is usually grey) and the negative side (which is the black side, with all the lines on it) of each cell. You can simply use a multimeter by placing its leads on the cell itself. This step is crucial, otherwise you'll connect bad cells in the middle of your link, causing the whole panel not to work.

Step 3: Use Conductive Pen If Needed

Picture of Use Conductive Pen If Needed

You need to make sure that all the tiny little lines in the negative side of the cells are interconnected (a way to gather all the electrons from the surface). This step is not necessary for all cells, only for the ones like in this picture, which don't have any connection between the lines on the surface. you can use the conductive pen to draw a thin line which connects all of them. Once you do that, you will immediately see the voltage rising for that specific cell.

Step 4: Cell With Conductive Pen Line

Picture of Cell With Conductive Pen Line

here's an example of a cell with the conductive pen line on it, linking between the tiny conductive leads on the negative side of the solar cell.

Step 5: Linking the Cells

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This can get a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, can be done fast enough. First, some technical notes: In order to get higher voltage, you need to connect two cells in series. This means that the negative part of the first connects to the positive part of the second. As you continue to add more cells in series, you will get a higher voltage from side to side on your solar strip. This is all good, but if your cells are small-ish, they won't generate much amperage. So even if you have a high voltage, you probably won't be able to give it any load (probably will hardly light an LED). In order to get higher amperage through the circuit, you need to connect cells in parallel (positive side to positive side, negative side to negative side). When you do this, make sure the positive and negative leads (copper mesh in this case) don't short themselves out.
I found that the best way to connect between two cells was to use hot glue and some conductive mesh. The mesh is good since it allows light to come through it, and we all love glue guns. So all you need to do is glue the mesh onto the solar cell surface. Its always better to have a longer strip of mesh on the surface, with a big enough shared surface space between the two. Always check with a multimeter that there is connectivity, and that there is voltage coming through. Its a bummer later to try and figure out where the problem is.

Step 6: Example Measurement for 2-cell Link

Picture of Example Measurement for 2-cell Link

Step 7: Example Measurements From a 6-cell Link

Picture of Example Measurements From a 6-cell Link

This solar array can light an LED when close to the window. (I know... doesn't help much)
But it can definitely charge a battery... (instructable still in the making...)

Step 8: Silicon Coating

Picture of Silicon Coating

I highly recommend applying a silicon coating to your solar array. The cells are so fragile, and the links can easily detach or move out of place. A thin coat of silicon keeps it all in place... and also gives it a very cool effect!

Step 9: Solar Jelly

Picture of Solar Jelly

Here's what i made.
A little Solar Jellyfish. I put a battery and servo motor inside. When there was enough light on it, the object moved its legs up and down just like a jellyfish (video coming very soon...). And when it was dark, it lit up from inside and became a light display.
A bit messy, but still a prototype.
Next iteration coming up real soon.

project page

Step 10: Hope This Helped

Picture of Hope This Helped

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, suggestions or ideas.


CecilySpecialty (author)2015-04-16

Question, does the conductive pen have to be silver?
Also, how do you connect it to anything electrical?

karst45 (author)CecilySpecialty2016-04-05

Not really but silver make better connection.

karst45 (author)2016-04-05

By all mean please post it as a DIY. Am quite curious to see your set-up

EndhouserPatrick (author)2016-02-22

Why pay a huge amount like $1000's for utilization of solar or wind power when you can have the opportunity to build your own home made solar system for less than $200. I know one thing. You can build it cheap. Go to and learn more

katabillups (author)2015-09-06


jeremy2k (author)2013-09-15

I've actually constructed solar panels for my house and a couple family members' homes. However, I used a solar panel kit rather than recycled photovoltaic cells. I'm sure this is a cheaper method (by far), but it definitely sounds a bit more technical. If this is your first attempt to construct a solar panel, I recommend using a kit rather than building it from recycled cells. I followed the directions at Do It Yourself Energy, which has numerous guides on both solar and wind energy.

nichalos82 (author)jeremy2k2015-08-30

I don't know, if you master this at your first attempt, then when it comes time when you have a kit available.... it would be like a treat!

ppereira14 (author)2014-06-27

I was looking for a higher capacity Solar System (400W or more). I found a really nice instructable. Heres a link

aurasolar (author)2014-06-02

This is very interesting and creative post on Solar Panels. This makes me crazy that you have made a solar panel from broken pieces of solar cells.

AbhishekGupta (author)2014-03-03

This is great. With all the things going on around us about solar energy we forget that fundamentally solar energy is the natural evolution of the electricity, power and energy industry. If the consumer also becomes the generator and all are electricity self sufficient where solar solutions seem to be going then imagine what fantastic future we can build for ourselves.

solarDIY (author)2013-06-10

This is great for those broken solar panels due to storms. Got a lot of people asking about how to salvage the scrap and I don't know how to before I came to this site.Great tutorial. But I have a question.. how much wattage does this "thing" produce? If anyone want to know more about solar panels feel free to visit my site: Solar panels for your home

successworld (author)2013-01-05

Many people are looking to save money. That is why people are look for information on how to make solar panel so that they can reduce the cost of energy bill in the home. to learn more you can refer Solar Panels Benefits and Disadvantages.

Helmut Rahn (author)2012-12-25

If you want to repair the broken cells, then it costs you more,
it is better way to make a solar own
you can know everything how to make a solar own
An engineer write it on his Solar Panels Blog

successworld (author)2012-12-04

Great post.. Solar Panels for home energy generation has been around for lots of years. I want to share more about building solar diy panels easily- Make Solar DIY Panels for your home.

twighahn (author)2012-10-15

how do i hook this to the batteries?

twighahn (author)twighahn2012-10-15

and where do i get a cheap inverter?

twighahn (author)2012-10-15

how do i hook this to the batteries?

danabalogu (author)2012-07-26

i need good solar cell 3x3 inch, 5 volt, 1-4 watt, send to me address of company were i can get them cheap.

schoonovermr (author)2012-06-27

You should make an instructables making a cell phone charger with these pannels

HestiaBHN (author)2012-05-25

It is a fascinating project I would like to try. But I would need a whole lot more detail and pictures. Not skipping any steps.

Step 2 Connect the pos. and neg. multi meter clips to where/what on the cell?

Step 5 is really confusing. Needs more detail. It looks like you took tabbing wire and soldered it in one long strip across the negative face of the bits. Then placed the whole string of bits on a large piece of copper mesh. So that only accounts for the positive to pos. and neg. to neg. Is there some other wire that goes over and under the bits? Could you please add pictures of attaching the where the positive and neg. parts are also?

Step 6 & 7 it looks like the wire mesh has been cut into strips maybe a few inches long goes over and under--connecting pos. to neg. That makes it a little more clear. But Now it no longer looks like the tabbing wire is connecting pos to pos and neg. to neg.

Step 9 looks really pretty. But wouldn’t the bits on the back side never get sun?
Step 10 . It looks like we are back to a large piece of wire mesh.

I'll check out some other DIY solar panel articles and add that info to your idea of using broken bits. As an artist I think I can make a really unusual and attractive solar collector. Thanks for the idea!

wtbskill (author)2012-04-17

This is great. I also found another good site on how to make solar panels if you guys are interested in how to do it yourself from scratch. You can go here for good DIY solar panels information. Hope it helps.

mariomario64 (author)2012-04-11

Could you explain the functionality of your last photo? thanks

Trapper777 (author)2012-04-11

When you check the solar panels in step 2, what are you looking for?

john1968 (author)2012-03-27 is pretty good website

PenaChris (author)john19682012-04-11

the man

malaskadora (author)2011-05-30

HI, I'm from philippines and energy cost is quite expensive. It's good to know that this kind of technology is growing. However, here in my country doesn't seem too interested on this. I want to build or make one for my own. I need your ideas about this, and I reckon if you could help me on this one.

I saw this site and I need your inputs. I want to have at least one guide for now. Thanks in advance!

bbuenaflor (author)malaskadora2011-08-27

It is as expensive everywhere else. you can check sulit.

PenaChris (author)bbuenaflor2012-04-11


Paulus44 (author)malaskadora2012-04-11

Hi, I am from Cagayan de oro city and look also for solarpanel material. Where can I buy that? If you know an address, please let me know. I have solarcooker and busy to make a vertical windmill.

geekdude (author)2010-05-17

ive heard of people pressing rocks and bits of glass bottles and stuff into concrete for sidewalks I but you could do the same thing with these. mix em in with black pebbles and they would look right at home. Then your sidewalk could be generating electricity. you might want to coat them with epoxy  or put them under bits of broken glass because the wair and tair of being a sidewalk might break them down. also you would want to make doubly sure your wireing is right because when the concrete dries you wont be able to fix it.

shoffman3 (author)geekdude2011-07-26

There's a guy working on this already - but he's taken it to the logical ultimate conclusion:

Also, I read the ``our vision`` thing, their idea for EV`s to recharge in parking lots, we could find a way to make tires conductive, so they leech power off the road.

qwerty156 (author)2011-06-28

mmm solar!
Good job! Solar+recycling=WIN!
Check out my solar panel blog!

gneal (author)2011-06-15

I just bought some new solar flood lights. But what if it is an overcast day? Do they still work?

emmick4 (author)2011-05-30

They aren't SELLING them. you can download them for free. they don't need permission.

Darrell Knight (author)2011-03-28

I am by no means a liberal, and could give a rats derriere about 'green' power. But as an Ultra Conservative, I do like to save money when I can. This is a very neat site, thanks for the info.

JohnDaniel (author)2011-03-23

Has anyone heard of or tried out some of the solar panel kits you can use to make solar panels at home? I have been looking into this but a little nervous about trying this type of project. My neighbor sent me to this site; Solar Panels Make At Home and I checked it out. Just looking for some feedback before I dive in.



Elian_gonzalez (author)2011-03-07

This is great would you be opposed to this Instructable being featured on my small business's Solar blog?

Mike Mikula,
InfluenSol LLC

aaa7z5 (author)2011-02-02

Hey, very interesting guide! I am searching for an easy to use system for making your own solar panels, I like DIY but I am not extremely hands-on.. My friend pointed me towards "Gridless Energy" where there are comparisons for affordable systems for building your own solar panels. Check it out if you are not sure where to start!

larawaller (author)2011-01-23

I love the fact that so many people still think solar power is science fiction, yet everyday another MW or 2 is being installed. So much activity in this industry that it's expected to reach 1GW in the USA by the end of the year.

diy solar panels

HRobinson (author)2010-06-06

Just joined and just found this posting ... you guys have some interesting stuff on this website! ... please excuse my ignorance but doesn't the glue act as an insulator or is there a conductive glue we should be using?

dagenius (author)HRobinson2011-01-19

You don't actually want it to conduct--you already have the conductive ink, and existing connections to do that. If the cells were encased in conductive glue, then they wouldn't have any output (short circuit).

MillenniumMan (author)2009-07-01

heh heh... Go to the post office and tell them that your solar panel came to you broken and you want them to buy a new one from the company, then order their most expensive one :)

Hi, isn't that just a little underhanded. That said, what a great way of reusing something that most folks would throw away and replace. Keep it up Manchester Counselling

formweaver (author)MillenniumMan2010-08-31

Recent experience tells me that isn't as easy as you might hope. We received one broken panel and it took much effort and many weeks before we were able to get them to replace the broken one, dealing with the seller and the post office. It was not fun. So be sure you know their policies, and if they are shipping it insured.

lukethedog (author)MillenniumMan2009-07-31

Never mind that the Postal Service will ask for your receipt and proof of purchasing insurance. Duh !

floydianslip (author)2007-12-16

Has anyone created a solar device which produces voltages & amperages in the
range of say - 30-40v @ 10amps, or is this just foolish thinking on my part? I live
in the Las Vegas Sunbelt.



MrCruz (author)floydianslip2008-04-08

What your talking about is using Solar cells to harness 300-400 Watts. No offense, but that does seem quite ambitious, as most solar cells that I know of produce electricity with low voltages and currents. For what your asking for, I think you'd need a part of a roof. Basically, if you have the space, then you can generate enough electricity for your needs. Realize tho, that solar cells are still improving in efficiency, and still require a good amount of space.

formweaver (author)MrCruz2010-08-31

I have a single panel 250 watts, sits on the ground outside my motor home in the woods. Northwest USA, gets full sun about 1/2 day on a sunny day and powers my laptop for several hours in the evening. If I just use it to run my LED lights then it lasts much longer. This was under $600 total (panel, battery, controller, converter, wires). But it would be nicely supplemented by one of these. Solar power isn't as hard as they want us to believe, it's not as expensive either if you Google and read through all of the choices. Good deals can be had. It just takes a little perseverance. If you don't have a TV, fridge, air-conditioning, etc you really don't need that much electric.

Zafner (author)floydianslip2008-04-13

You can create whatever voltage you want, and whatever current you want. It's a question of how much surface area, light intensity, and cell efficiency you have. In the desert, you have lots of light, but you still need a pretty large surface area to get that much juice.

About This Instructable




Bio: Work at the FUSE (future of Social Experience) Microsoft Lab in Cambridge, MA. Alumni of the Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University. Most recent web ... More »
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