Instructables

How To Build A Solar Panel

Featured
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


 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
vic86m1 month ago

Hi!
I am from India, and i am a solar enthusiast.

Recently, i bought Solar panel (75 watts, 36 cells) in a govt of India subsidy scheme for 5000 INR (that's 95 $ roughly which includes a 15 foot rod, battery and a street light). If i make one, would it cost less than what i've purchased under this scheme?

Jport183 months ago
Hehe want some candy
Cali121310 months ago
You'll have to figure out the right voltage for sure. I got really detailed info about making my own panels online at www.homemadesolarcelldiy.com and it was pretty helpful good luck !!
asargent22 years ago
how many of these would i need to run a computer all day, computer is AC 220v battery
JCG5 asargent212 months ago
I'm not sure but you would want an inverter and a deep cycle battery about AC 220v to keep it running.
JCG512 months ago
On the solar cells I ordered, it has three "lines" to put tabbing wire. Do I put tabbing wire on all 3 lines or just 2?
Excellent, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Would you let me put this on my blog? With FULL credits to you? thx. http://homemadeiseasy.blogspot.com/
A tip for drilling plexiglass: Buy a cheap steel drill bit of the size you need. Before using it on the plexi, run it into a piece of concrete for a few moments. This dulls the edge just right so you can slowly chew through the plexi without cracking it, and without the bit trying to pull itself through faster than it's cutting. You can get specialized plexiglass/acrylic drill bits, but they cost alot. An aquarium friend of mine shared this tip with me for small numbers of holes, and it really works.
if you have any experience with sharpening drills, you can also use shallower lip angle so the edges don't cut as aggressively. also, a reduced rake angle will prevent the drill from grabbing which would decrease the chance of breaking the material around the hole.

taken from http://www.smithy.com/machining-handbook/chapter-6/page/4
Doesn't plexiglass discolor over a fairly short period of time being exposed to the elements ? Thanks.
TheCiscoKid2 years ago
hi, i really like your instructable I am almost at the end but it seems that you never explained how to wire the junction box to the charge controller. My junction box has what i believe are mc4 connectors. Will the charge controller have a connection for these? If not, how do i connect them??i have looked around online but i cant find anything on the topic. Thanks.

Francisco
If you want to reduce the chances of water geting to ur solar cells you can seal it useing eva. its made incapsle the solar cells
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUG9kLuRGXc&feature=related
and this is by far the best video i found on makeing a solar panel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVEK_OnEA2M&feature=related
hope i helped.
Hi Robert. I just wanted to thank you for making this instructable, it's really appreciated. Your videos are really easy to follow and interesting. I've been doing research trying to learn how to make my own panels and found a few tutorials but yours is the best one I've found. I've also subscribed to your YT channel as well. So thanks again for this instructable. I'm making a few for my future home where there's no utilities and you're making it possible for me without spending tons of money.
dasgemuse2 years ago
you deserve some sort of instructables award for this. outstanding work. i too have been in you exact predicament. this information is HARD to come by. thank you so very much
pensativo2 years ago
Thank you very much for posting this, it answered a lot of my questions. :)
kschmitz22 years ago
What kinda of output is this generating? are you using it to power anything? Great Post.
Ronnieloo2 years ago
I live in a single wide aging 1971 flat roof mobile home. My roof is shot. I was thinking of making a peaked roof of solar panels. Anyone have suggestions for me? Thanks much!
jcksparr0w3 years ago
FINNALY!!! someone with solar panel nohow AND brains!
rohitbhl3 years ago
CAN U PLZ LET ME KNOW THE APPROXIMATE COST to made it at home....
plz let me know on my email id :
rohitbhl@yahoo.com
Kaya Tetsu3 years ago
Just started watching this. Couldn't help to notice that you painted it white. Would you not want to paint it black or a dark color? Would that help at all? Or is there a reason that you shouldn't that I just don't know about?
Painting it black would increase the heat inside the panel and solar cells are less efficient at higher temperatures
chardog19713 years ago
do you think this type of tech would work on the pop top of m van?I hate running out of battery when on long term camp trips.seems that you could put it directly on the surface to reduce any wind drag
If you bevel the edges of the frame, at least on the front side, the wind drag would be negligible.

If you are camping, you should make the panel attached to the roof but still removable. That way, if you would rather camp in the shade, you could set the panel up in the sun with a cord running back to the van.

It sounds like a really fun project.
It would work quite nicely.
mr_man3 years ago
Here is a similar guide, in case anyone's interested.
http://sunelec.com/Solar_Array_guide.pdf

Ducky0013 years ago
What the..... You build all that by your self!!! Nice job!! Was it hard? I'm going to study computer engineer too. Have fun building other kind of things! :)
zulfattah3 years ago
I got mine from Ebay germany..cheaper than when directly order from producer..cost me EUR170 for 100 pieces 156mmx156mm mono or poly with 3.8 W to 4.1W power rating.
djcssp4 years ago
Hello Robert,
I looked at your website and you posted a spreadsheet on the cost of producing the panel. Your list of materials includes the tools. What is the approximate cost if I already have all the tools?

The approximate cost if you have the tools is the approxmite cost listed on the spread sheet minus and cost of any tools you already have.
hastyhost (author)  djcssp4 years ago
 Hi,

For my solar panel I did not buy any tools, such as the power drill, saw, and other power tools. I also had all that on hand already, and the spreadsheet doesn't include those items.

Maybe you are referring to something else?
I AM TRYING TO WORK UP THE NERVE TO ATTEMPTA DIY SOLAR PANEL INSTALLATION YOUR PROJECT IS EXELLANT.

PAUL COX
POOLE, SOUTH COAST ENGLAND.
sugarain3 years ago
am from Ghana, and i really interested in soler energy, thank you for all your tutorials, i think getting the materials is my problem, especially the soler cells, making it here i can but the coper sheet am not sure we have some around, how can i get some cells u used
OK...can i make an improvised solar cell??
Yes, but it would be so ineficient that you would need about 10 square meters of it to come anywhere close to this panels ouput.
kktwags4 years ago
I made 4 60 watt solar panels , they work great for the most part , we installed them on our awning with 2x4's unerneath for air to get through however we are having major moisture issues.  when we built the first two we thought it was because we used to much silicone and didn't seal up the sides good enough but we just built two more with alot less silicone and we sealed the sides with aluminum tape however there is still alot of moisture in the panels.  It always starts with a fog and then turns into alot of water droplets.   Do you or anyonelse have any suggestions on how to fix this or why this is happening. We can't haven't been able to come up with any other reason.
edraq58 kktwags3 years ago
I had same problem as yours. What I did was drilled 3 holes each side ( total of 12 holes ) around inside close to the frames. Before that I vacuumed the moisture first. Since then there is no more moisture problem.
That's exactly how you do it.
samanella3 years ago
You're awesome! I'm going to make one this summer! Thanks a lot :)
hi, m krishna, how to make rc kits. plz help me.
T8tersalid3 years ago
Do you have an estimate of how much this would cost in all?
jhunmar1003 years ago
where can i get solar cells ????? pls reply i need the answer please:(
You can get them from ebay. Just type in solar cells and you will be on your way.
thanx a lot dude...:)
They are easy to find and buy, I have had great success building my own solar panels for my house, there is so much great info on this site for you to apply.
manicmonday3 years ago
What are the white spots on the back made of? Do you need to solder wire to all the white spots?

Since the whole back side is conductive, can you solder anywhere on the back?

Thanks
Robert
The back spots are made of 1/1000 inch thick silver.
hastyhost (author)  manicmonday3 years ago
You are correct about the back side being conductive, however, the manufacture use those white spots/areas to help you solder the tabbing wire on easier, and so that your tabbing wire is lined up correctly so that it can be soldered onto the negative side of the next solar cell.

You don't have to solder the tabbing wire on all the white spots, but it does add a better bond in the rare case one part of your tabbing wire was to come apart.
Ghost Wolf3 years ago
You use a mac and you used Garage Band for the music. 5 stars BTW
cdubnbird3 years ago
this is one of the most thorough, well made instructables i have ever seen.
SinAmos3 years ago
Great work. It was really helpful. Thank you.
Love it! There's also a book out there that tells you how to fab the solar cells yourself. It's from Lindsay Publications (which, btw, has some amazing gems for DIYers) http://www.lindsaybks.com/bks3/solar/index.html
firiepete3 years ago
Hi Andrew thanks for your feedback I find your comment interesting, I was told this info from a engineer. Is your solar panel on a RV or caravan.
Mine isn't on an RV or caravan but whenever I have it out for charging or experimenting with it has been shaded with one cell only being shaded and still works fine afterwards.
firiepete3 years ago
Thanks for posting this information. I am going to have a go at constructing a Solar Panel for my RV. I have been told that if I was to park my RV anywere that might shade part of the panel, that the rest of the panel that would be receiving full sunlight would send current to this shaded area. This could cause this string to over heat. So therefore I would have to protect each string by putting a bypass diode between each one. Is this correct.
You could put blocking diodes on each string, but not necessary. My panel doesn't have blocking diodes and it has been shaded partially before and not been hurt. The only way to really damage your panel that way is for a leaf to fall directly on that cell and completely block any sun going to it. Hope this helps.
oh... good...wondwerfulll!!!
gbone934 years ago
 Thank you very much if I was a Pro Member I would definitely give you a patch or badge or whatever they call it.  Gave you five stars.  Great series of useful, helpful and informative information.  When I collect enough money I am going to use your videos to make solar panels to completely cover the roof of my house.
delslink4 years ago
Hello hastyhost,
First of all i must congratulate you for the good job done. I have watched all your videos and was really impressed with your work. I am also proud of your mother for her time and effort to sponsor your entire project and also her skills as a videographer.  your videos are great and i believe that it is a must for all beginners to watch to give them a headstart towards their first DIY projects on solar panels. I studied Physics in the university and your works have inspired me to put my theoritical knowledge into DIY projects. Once again congratulations and i wish you all the best of luck in school and in life. Best regards to your mum on my behalf
romoivan4 years ago
where did you get the solar cells from? how much do they cost? thanks in advance
How long will the battery last?  How do you calculate it according to the inverter you are using and how many watts you are drawing from it?  If you know the formula/s it would be very helpful.  I don't know what battery or inverter I am going to use yet so that is why I don't have numbers and just need formulas.  I have looked on the internet for it, but a lot of the results are advertising or junk.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. This is a great instructable.
Big W4 years ago
could i use just straight soldering wire with no flux?
hastyhost (author)  Big W4 years ago
Hi,

The flux is used to help bond /solderhe tabbing wire to the solar cell. Again, it's just used to "help", so it is possible for you to solder the tabbing wire without it, but I really would not recommend it.
there is solder wire you can get with flux in it though idk how well it actually works or where to get it, how much it is.
Big W hastyhost4 years ago
ok. thanx. one more thing, how do you workout the Volts to watts, and watts to kilowatts, for running fridges, freezers and other stuff.
hastyhost (author)  Big W4 years ago
Refer to andrew gartrell's post
 To figure out watts, You multiply volts times amps( 3.5 amps for a 3 by 6 inch cell). 1000 watts equals 1 kilowatt.
Highjump444 years ago
Good vids and instrucatble this explained everythin to me im going to get the phone charger and upgrade the battery to a Polymer Lithium Ion Batteries - 6Ah or a 2Ah
Highjump444 years ago
http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=366877&itemid=677598

$350 60Watts 4amp

works in all weather conditions. Kit includes PVC mounting frame, 7 amp charge controller, 175W inverter, wiring and connectors, blocking diode
u may just want to upgrade the frame and the inverter
Gilo4 years ago
Hi. Good job. Do you have any information where to get surplus panels? I read from somewhere that surplus panels can be had for free.
hastyhost (author)  Gilo4 years ago
Hi Gilo, Sorry I do not have any information on surplus panels, but if you find out some, please be sure to let me know.
ebay... fred480v (I had to search many pages under "solar cells"). I got 40, 1x3 inch, .6amp cells for just over $20 with shipping. He gave me a couple extra since they have edge chips.
thanks. I 'll check it out.
Gilo hastyhost4 years ago
Ok. Where'd you get your cells?
hastyhost (author)  Gilo4 years ago
Hi Gilo,

I got my solar cells off eBay.

Here is a direct link to where you can find all the needed material:

http://solartechtown.com/forum/how-to-build-a-solar-panel/where-do-i-buy-the-solar-cells/

Hope that helps :)
happyhost, another ebay source is everbright solar in Fremont, CA. I bought a full set of supplies there, and have been able to call for support. also they are planning to offer an instructional class during August. I'm very happy to see your instrucatble, you have done a very nice job here. thanks, ron
T2Pogi rondos4 years ago
thanks hastyhost & rondos
hastyhost (author)  rondos4 years ago
Hi rondos, Thanks for the comment, and yes that's where I purchased my solar cells as well, and have decided just to link to one of their sellers on eBay instead of trying to be the middle man and sell the set myself :)
airsofter14 years ago
Hi, how are you getting the volts right. I connected 4 cells together and only got .5 volts. Thanks
You connected 'em in parallel. But you got 4 X the amps the each cell provides. Do "top to underneath, repeat". Each cell should put out the 1/2 volt so if you connect 36 together, you'll get 18 volts which is enough for charging the 12 volt battery pack. With leds, you only need a 3.6v pack (which is 3 AA's wired in series, positive to negative as with the cells). Even that may fry 'em thus learn ohms law (volts divided by ohms = amps). Thus you want to light up a Cree Q5 (the most efficient light available for around $5). It drops about 2.9 volts when consuming .25 amp (250mA, and almost a hundred lumens) or drops about 3.2 when consuming close to a whole amp (very hot and self destructive, need heat sink! and only 220 lumens). Actually, buy multimeter and see the v drop for yourself as I may be a little "off". Anyways, the 3.6 v bat pack (3 AA's) when fully charged will be about 4.15v. That 4.15 v minus the 2.9 (Cree led) = 1.25 volts to "drop", that is to "resist". thus 1.25 / .25 amp = 5 ohm resistor needed. You might want to wire four 20's (not end to end, that would make 80 ohms) together at all ends for more power handling (this way they dont get so hot to damage batteries). For More amps, they would be a lower ohm resistor (but just the normal 1/4 watt may not work. Search "resistor power handling" or something to learn more). Good luck!
hastyhost (author)  airsofter14 years ago
Could you visit www.solartechtown.com and go to our Forums and ask the question, but also include if you can a diagram on how you have it hooked up, and I'll try to see what the problem is? Thanks
Sorry, I was having trouble with solartechtown so I will tell you here. My solar cells came pretabbed with wires coming off the top side (the positive side on mine) and I hooked them up top to bottom so basically I mirrored yours with a little tweak. Also, does it matter if you mess up the white spot on the bottom but still put the wire there. Thanks.
hastyhost (author)  airsofter14 years ago
That could be the issue, but somewhat hard to tell without an image of the solar cell. Try to do the same thing I did but make sure all the solar cells are in great condition, and that you are putting direct sunlight on the solar cells hooked up in "series".
Andruha11234 years ago
One more question, approximately, how long will a 150 watt panel (panels) take to charge a normal battery?
Andruha11234 years ago
Hey, I will soon have 100 2 watt, .5 volts cells, what would be the best to use them, should I make 3 panels 33 each?
hastyhost (author)  Andruha11234 years ago
I'd actually go with 3 panels with 32 solar cells each, just to keep all your numbers even, as if you are producing an odd voltage number I hear you'll need a MPPT controller which cost a lot more. With 32 solar cells, you'll be producing 16 volts, still enough to charge a 12volt battery, and I am guessing you'll be charging batteries in your system... Additionally, you'll have spare solar cells left over which is never a bad thing.
thanks for your fast reply. Yes, I will use these to charge batteries, i was just wondering if 16 volts are enough to charge batteries, ive looked on the internet and most say that 18 volts is the best. And as to odd voltage, isn;t that what a regulator for? Doesn't it just change it to 13.4 volts for the battery?
mark284 years ago
how much did you spend building this panel in total?
hastyhost (author)  mark284 years ago
For the entire project as mentioned in Step 9, around $400-$500, but for just the solar panel, about $200 or less.
mark284 years ago
hi. hastyhost once again, what measure of solar cells do you recomend to make a solar panel to power my lights and what other device do i need once be done
hastyhost (author)  mark284 years ago
Well that's not really enough information to give you an accurate answer. We need to know things such as how many watts do the lights take and how long you wish to use them. A Good forum to help you with this stuff is www.solarpowerforum.net Good luck :)
mark284 years ago
hi, where did you get the littles solar cells or you made them?
hastyhost (author)  mark284 years ago
I got them off eBay. You can find the link on my website, just click on the solar cell image and you'll be taken to them.
jolshefsky4 years ago
I learned from several sources that the benefit of a factory solar panel is that they are properly sealed from the weather: typically vacuum-sealed inside moisture-proof and air-proof barrier. I gather that solar cells -- or the very least the solder and wire connections -- are susceptible to corrosion and damage from water and temperature changes. For instance, check out the condition of the panels in cheap solar path lights after just a few years. Have you come across this information as well? Otherwise, excellent Instructable!
hastyhost (author)  jolshefsky4 years ago
Hi jolshefsky, First thanks for the comment. As for corrosion, what usually speeds this up is if you have ventilation of some kind inside your panel which I do not. I've talked with several people who have went the same route that I have and have had their solar panel exposed for a long period of time, and so far there have not been any issues with corrosion. I've only had my solar panel outside on my roof (which I'll show later in Part 12 of the video) for almost a month now, and everything is still working fine performance wise, and looks fine. But overall, I do agree that professional panels will probably last a little longer than a typical DIY panel, but most should be fine if you seal your panel up from the exterior to prevent any moisture from getting inside the panel.
i also wanted to mention that cells loose efficiency in heat; it's better to have ventilation. with that in mind, i'm going to be trying out the solar cell encapsulant so that the cells are protected from the elements but still get a cool breeze to keep it real. i'll let you know about my success or failure when i get it.
hastyhost (author)  ~boots~4 years ago
Well actually, if you do allow air to get inside your panel, it's going to eventually lead to corrison. Professional panels actually vacuum out all the air which helps with this, and also use some type of chemical as well in some.

It's recommended to have at least 4" of space underneath your solar panel to help keep things cool. The heat you are referring isn't usually a factor as the solar cells absorb most of the energy that's going to produce the heat and possible mess up most devices that you'd leave out in the sun.

I recommend taking a look at this thread here about that: http://www.solarpowerforum.net/forumVB/showthread.php?t=2647&highlight=ventilation

There's a lot of experienced people there to help you to get started if you come to a bump in your project ;)

Good luck boots :)
~boots~4 years ago
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 :)
hastyhost (author)  ~boots~4 years ago
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.
koo4 years ago
great work man....RESPECT.... Q:what is the efficiency rate of your panel?
hastyhost (author)  koo4 years ago
Hi koo, For my solar panel, I've only had it up for about 1 month now, but have talked with people who have went similar routes that I have using wood and etc. and they stated that theirs have been performing quite well even after a couple of months. I would like to experiment with aluminum next, as that's what most solar panel frames are made out of, and probably will last longer than wood in the long run, and probably require less maintenance. But so far, everything is performing well.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!