Introduction: How to Build a Solar Panel

Picture of How to Build a Solar Panel
Currently I'm a college student studying computer engineering, and this summer while I was on break I decided I wanted to learn more about solar energy and how to build a solar panel from scratch. My main reason for looking to build it myself was to learn how it all worked, and the next reason was due to the price of a commercially built solar panel.

So to get started, I searched around and found a few videos here and there, and a few articles on how to go about building a solar panel, but it was hard for me to find a full free video or article that showed you the full process to making a solar panel from scratch. I ended up having to watch about 4 different videos, and then having to sign up for a forum to ask other questions I had in order to get a basic idea of how to go about building my own solar panel.

It was basically an adventure for me, and mid-way into the project, I decided that while I'm learning about how to build a solar panel, and putting it together, why not create a free video to help others that want to learn about solar energy and how to build a solar panel. Of course it takes time to edit the video, and time to create a website, but I see it as a small great way of giving back.

So, you'll learn how to build a 63 watt solar system in this instructable with free videos to help you get started. I know I'm a visual learner, so hopefully most find this very helpful.

For the full video series, simple visit my website at: http://www.greentechtown.com/how-to-build-a-solar-panel-diy


Step 1: Creating a Template & Putting Frame Together

Picture of Creating a Template & Putting Frame Together
First, I want to make a template for my solar cells. What I used was a spare piece of regular plywood, a piece of regular cardboard the size of a solar cell, some tile spacers, and a staple gun to create my template. I wanted to use the tile spacers to help keep my solar cells even as seen in Part 1 of the video.



Using a ruler helped to keep everything aligned, and it's easier to cut the plywood using a jigsaw, but a regular hand saw will do fine as well.

Next, once I finished my template, I started to put the frame together. What I used was a 1x2x8 piece of plywood, and cut that to fit my outer frame of the plywood. I wanted to make sure the outer frame was not too high to prevent from loosing any sunlight I could be using. So I then placed the pieces of plywood on top of the 2x4 pressure treated plywood, and screwed those down and sanded the entire frame afterward as seen in Part 2 of the video. After sanding and cleaning up any extra dust left over, I applied the Deck and Siding paint onto the frame. I wanted to give it 2 coats for a nice seal from UV rays, and making it water resistant. I also needed to place 2 coats of the Deck and Stain paint on the 2x4 piece of pegboard.

Step 2: Assembling the Solar Cells

Picture of Assembling the Solar Cells
Next, while my first coat was drying, I started to work on assembling the solar cells. The best way to learn how to assemble the solar cells would be to simply watch the video. A quick overview of it is, the bottom of the solar cell is the positive side, and the top of solar cell is the negative side. I wanted to connect the solar cells in series, with a total of 36 solar cells, which will give me 63 watts. I used tabbing wire with a soldering iron to connect the solar cells together. For my panel I had 3 strings of solar cells. To connect those strings of solar cells, I used what is called a bus wire. The bus wire goes at the end of the strings to create one long string, however, curled up in a way like a snake. Again, for step 2, I recommend you watch the full video (Part 3) to understand how to work with the solar cells and how to check the voltage/current.


Step 3: Creating Holes for My Connections

Picture of Creating Holes for My Connections
Next, once the pegboard and plywood had 2 coats of Deck and Siding paint, I needed to screw the pegboard down inside the frame (plywood). What I did was first place the solar cells inside my frame to get an idea of where I'd need to place the screws, and then took the solar cells back out once I made my marks, and then screwed the pegboard down. Next I went ahead and drilled 2 holes at the end of my frame for my negative and positive connections to run out. You can find more about this in Part 4 of the video.


Step 4: Gluing the Solar Cells Down

Picture of Gluing the Solar Cells Down
Next, it was time to glue the strings of solar cells down to the pegboard with silicon. Watch Part 5 to see the method I used.



Afterward, since I had two strings completed, I was able to go ahead and solder my bus wire on one end to bond the two strings of solar cells together. Watch Part 5 and Part 6of the video to see how I went about doing this. Note* after you solder any string together, or make new connections, it is a good practice to check the voltage/current that moment, rather than waiting until you connect all the solar cells/strings together. This is also mentioned in the video as well.


Step 5: Soldering Bus Wire

Picture of Soldering Bus Wire
Next, after hooking all 3 strings of solar cells up in series, I was ready to get my 22 gauge wires (red and black) ready for soldering. On the ends of my leads from my gauge wires, I connected some connectors to make the process of soldering them down to the bus wire a lot easier. Watch Part 7 of the video to see how I went about doing that.



To help give the inside of the solar panel a nicer look, I used 2 strips of wiremold and ran the wires inside those. This is also seen in Part 7 and Part 8 of the video. Afterward, I took the panel outside in the sun to test the voltage/current of the whole panel to make sure I was getting 18 volts and 3.5 amps in an open circuit and short circuit.


Step 6: Visiting the Electric Side

Picture of Visiting the Electric Side
Next, in Part 9 of my video, I showed the electrical side of the solar system. Basically, what you need is a charge controller, deep cycle battery, and an inverter. To hook those up together is fairly simple as you can see in the video. I first hooked the solar panel connections up to the solar side of the charge controller, and from the battery connection side of the charge controller, I hooked that up to the deep cycle battery. From the battery, I hooked that up to the inverter, and then I was set to go. Again, watch Part 9 to see the whole process and see devices I was able to power off the solar system.


Step 7: Adding Even Pressure on the Plexiglass

Picture of Adding Even Pressure on the Plexiglass
Next, I found out that to secure my 2x4 piece of plexiglass I would need to provide even pressure around all the edges as you can see in Part 10 of the video. To accomplish this, I used another set of the same outer frame pieces of plywood I had on the bottom of the plexiglass, and mounted those on top of the plexiglass to provide the even pressure I needed. Be sure to drill slowly into the plexiglass to prevent from cracking the glass, and make sure you have screws that are made for pressure treated lumber. Refer to Part 10 of the video for more details.


Step 8: Installing the Junction Box

Picture of Installing the Junction Box
Next, in Part 11 of the video, I finished connecting my back pieces of plywood that was going to support my whole solar panel when I was ready to mount the panel on my roof. I also installed a junction box onto the back of the solar panel since most solar panels include a junction box. As seen in the video, my junction box came with a blocking diode which prevents the backflow of current when you have the solar panel hooked up to a battery. Most charge controllers prevent the backflow of current already, but if the charge controller does not, you will need to install a blocking diode onto the solar panel. It is best to install the blocking diode on the outside of the panel just in case something was to ever happen to it so you can easily replace it.



Lastly, I took my silicon and went around all my edges of the solar panel, as well as the junction box on the back. Next I made a final voltage/current check and was ready to mount the panel to my roof.

Step 9: My Thoughts of the Whole Project

Picture of My Thoughts of the Whole Project

Overall, the project was a fun experience, and the total amount of money that I spent was around $400-$500, which includes the battery, charge controller, and deep cycle battery. So I saved a large portion by building my own solar system, since a commercial solar panel would have cost $400 on up for just the solar panel itself.

If you have any questions or concerns, just visit GreenTechTown.com's Forum and I or other members will try to answer them as quickly as we can. This is a free resource including the videos, so be sure to share this with others.

Comments

Emma Emily (author)2017-11-19

Thank you so much for this instru--so many helpful tips here. But, I just saw this post ("Free video reveals a crazy secret to cut your electric bills by 75% (or more) In Just 2 days and this system generates over 12x the power of regular solar panels in less space and for less money.") and actually was reading about this same topic the other day. I did some searching around and stumbled onto this cool article… I thought it was helpful…

basitbhatti (author)2017-11-13

THis is really helpful and incredible..

Cocamafo (author)2017-10-28

Can this be connected to your home or do you have to run items directly off of the battery? If you can connect it, does that require an electrician? Thanks so much!

sr rm (author)2017-10-22

This is really helpful, I'll get around to it one day. Thank you.

kevinpcox (author)2017-10-03

Seems like Inplix is blocked for malware?
How does the price compare building your own to buying remade?
Is there a materials list?

creektilghmank45 (author)2017-07-03

I made it with inp lix

damonboy701 (author)2014-08-21

hi, it's very interesting project. Just wondering where you bought your solar cells from?

I bought excellent handbook from Inplix website. Just google inplix and start your journey to better life

tyyyh (author)damonboy7012017-05-30

Harbor freight has em

hastyhost (author)damonboy7012014-08-21

I bought them off of eBay. This was 4 or so years ago, but you should be able to still find them. Just type in Solar Cells in the search field, and you should get quick a few results.

damonboy701 (author)hastyhost2014-08-21

thank you very much, sir. This definitely is going to help me on building one of these solar panels. I am in Canada. Do you remember you paid any import duties on this?

creektilghmank45 (author)2017-07-03

I think you should try inplix plans. It's easy to learn how to make it :D

Finnchik (author)2017-02-13

well, great, it's no longer free, you have to pay for premium service to download the instructions!

Sheena Pinkston (author)2017-01-24

Sun oriented vitality is commended as a boundless fuel source that is contamination and regularly clamor free. The innovation is likewise flexible. For instance, sun based cells create vitality for far-out spots like satellites in Earth circle and lodges somewhere down in the Rocky Mountains as effortlessly as they can control downtown structures and advanced autos.

Be that as it may, sun powered vitality doesn't work during the evening without a capacity gadget, for example, a battery, and shady climate can make the innovation inconsistent amid the day. Sun powered innovations are additionally extremely costly and require a considerable measure of land territory to gather the sun's vitality at rates helpful to loads of individuals.

Regardless of the disadvantages, sun oriented vitality utilize has surged at around 20 percent a year in the course of recent years, on account of quickly falling costs and picks up in proficiency. Japan, Germany, and the United States are real markets for sun oriented cells. With assessment motivators, sunlight based power can frequently pay for itself in five to ten years.http://www.worldsolarpanels.com/

Boywonderg made it! (author)2016-11-22

I Made it

Makaila RaK (author)2016-11-10

hi good day! I'm having my study now about how to make more solar energy like we have today... but I have some concerns regarding the present solar panel today... I hope if you are not busy I would like to get an answer about this concern... how much heat does the solar cells withstand?

ertz1 (author)2016-11-08

Great Stuff! Thank you for the instructable!

It's also great to see another Robert Smith rocking it!

MayaM26 (author)2016-09-22

Hi - I was wondering if you used a battery and if so, what kind? What did you use to charge with it, and what gauge wire did you use? Also, did you use a charge controller, blocking diode, and power inverter? Thanks!

cuyler1 (author)2016-09-06

In part 7 1:40 when you said "you'll be goin' back to home depot" I laughed so much as I have been there done that. for everyone ; this is a fantastic real world video!! But bar none Robert has laid this out well and while it is a tough project for almost anyone as those cells crack on you just at looking at them!! A Vote for this man!

yimbiraralik (author)2016-08-15

Did you use by pass diode ? or Just blocking diode ? Ty

MichaelS522 (author)2016-07-14

The most well documented project I've seen. You cover the whole thing from soup to nuts as they say. You put a LOT of effort into this. Very well done!

RebekaD2 (author)2016-07-07

I commend you on your adventurous ambition. Thank you so much for creating these videos and sharing them to the public for free. I'm looking forward to see if you make more videos and if not I wish you the best in life. I will make sure to post again if I am successful building a solar panel.

MattiV (author)2016-06-24

today same panel make about 40-60 $ wery expensive if cost 400 $ same prize u can buy ready to use panel today 2016. 400 $ can buy about 400-800W panel now.

diy u can made 400$ 1000W panel or 2 pcs.

EndhouserPatrick (author)2016-02-22

I took the inplix package yesterday. I'm gonna make solar this week :)

Did it work?

Rolicreates (author)2016-04-04

how much amps

Rolicreates (author)2016-04-04

wow

JewelJaskot256 (author)2016-04-04

Good job.

PeterS196 (author)2016-03-28

I looked at ebay. Panels etc. for 75 watts was USD$30.00. A company in Miami is selling 250Watt panel for $0.45 per watt.

AlentoS (author)2016-01-19

I made my first solar panel 2 weeks ago. I used 'inplix' plans to make it. Working well. I can recommend it

RJW2 (author)2015-04-09

I heard that there is Mercury in solar panels and that is a fact.

JonathanE8 (author)RJW22015-09-05

Please do not chew, ingest, or otherwise insert the solar panels into your body.

ShadowStriker (author)JonathanE82015-12-22

So true xD

NoahL5 (author)RJW22015-05-11

Depends on what panel you are making; many are Hg free

TedOKC (author)2015-10-11

How long would it take for someone to make one once they got the hang of it? Do you know about how heavy it was?

AMRITHAK (author)2015-09-29

Which solar cell and Amt of solar cell needed to run a room

ErmmiasT (author)2015-08-16

What's an Amazon video tutorial.

Da Falls Guy (author)2012-06-03

Doesn't plexiglass discolor over a fairly short period of time being exposed to the elements ? Thanks.

NoahL5 (author)Da Falls Guy2015-05-11

For the record check around here are a few

Acrylic sheet/pmma panel
Da Falls Guy (author)NoahL52015-05-12

So, I'm building a panel, what should I use as a front glass please? Thanks a lot. Robert

~boots~ (author)2009-08-05

i'm not quite sure how you're getting your tabbing wire to stick; i've been using solder on mind - front and back of the cells - and its not only coming off but it's tearing off the contact on the negative side and not sicking when i try to reapply it. did you get pre-tinned tabbing wire? am i just stupid? i cant get it it work (or at least stay on). bty - you're videos are amazing. i really appreciate the hard work :)

shawn10101 (author)~boots~2015-01-15

no your not stupid i made this mistake and you need a rosin flux pen, it cleans the surface of the area were you are trying to solder. look up #186 flux pen on ebay

NoahL5 (author)shawn101012015-05-11

Flux pens are used to aid the situation not a permanent fix, solder, rods, iron still need to be cleaned with alcohol. Want to be #1......want to be successful, i'll tell you a secret that nobody will figure out till i open my mouth. What the heck i'm an educator.

ER209 stainless steel solder wire. It uses chromium
FogJoseph1984 (author)~boots~2015-02-11

Not bad, not bad mate. I made my solar panel too. check for http://inplix.com if you want to know more

hastyhost (author)~boots~2009-08-05

Well sometimes it can be a result of the type of tabbing wire you have and the type of soldering iron you have. I noticed one time when I bought some tabbing wire off eBay from a seller, the tabbing wire was a lot thicker than the tabbing wire that came with my solar cells (bundle purchase). And I too noticed it was harder to solder that thicker tabbing wire onto the solar cells and I was forced to put some solder onto the tabbing wire and then solder the tabbing wire down. But I had a basic soldering iron too, so the heat required to solder that thicker tabbing wire down could have played a factor, I'm not sure, but I'd recommend to you just to ask the person or company you buy it from next time what type of soldering iron do they recommend and is the tabbing wire made for the type of solar cells you wish to solder it too.

ShawaizB (author)2015-04-13

cool work

rickgee (author)2015-04-08

hi u soldered the bus but u did not tell us why the bus is different on both ends, and I did not see were the negative wire is soldered to !

jhunmar100 (author)2010-07-16

where can i get solar cells ????? pls reply i need the answer please:(

shawn10101 (author)jhunmar1002015-01-15

ebay is the best place probly ms solar

airsofter1 (author)jhunmar1002010-07-20

You can get them from ebay. Just type in solar cells and you will be on your way.

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Bio: Robert Smith discovered the wonders of online content at an early age. He started out while in middle school using free web services to create ... More »
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