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How to MAKE PV Solar Panels

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Picture of How to MAKE PV Solar Panels
This is not "How to make PV Solar Cells".
It is possible to home-make Copper Oxide and other kinds of materials
but that is a whole nother story which I may do in the future.

I may be a little bit ambitious to try to show you how I made PV
Solarpanels out of various types of cells I collected and how and
where I obtained them rather inexpensively, and some of the differences
in the various kinds, but most of all, how to work with them to get
free electricity under the light of the sun and other sources of light.

In essence, this involves ways to connect cells, which may produce
more or less than one volt, and not only try to increase power output
but also decrease the load, that is, efficiently conserve the energy
whether it is meager or significant.
For example, even the weakest solar panels can run watches,
calculators, radios, charge batteries, and if a computer were
specifically designed to, it would be as solar-powerable as a calculator.

Here are some pictures of Solar Panels which I have constructed.
 
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Step 1: Supplies and Sources

Picture of Supplies and Sources
What you may be able to use to build a useful solar panel:

"Broken" solar cells. They are very cheap and they work, they are
just randomly shaped. They are usually crystalline silicon ones,
which ALWAYS (ha!) look broken even when they are not.

Surplus solar cells. Amorphous silicon printed on glass (check) are
excellent, usually producing more than a volt, and much sturdier
than the thin ones that break in bulk quantities. If these break, we
can fix them, usually.

Indium Copper Selenide Cells. These are "new" and are conveniently
sold as glass tiles with easy to solder tabs.

Any of the above, sold as cells prepared for assembly into panels;
in other words, complete and solder - ready or with wires and tabs.
(I will explain how to prepare inferior quality cells in this instructable.)

Miscellaneous items:
Wire Glue - There is already another instructable for using wire glue
on Broken solar cells. (link)

Brass extrusions, bracket |_| shaped - Convenient for connecting to glass cells.

Solder
Soldering Iron - low wattage
Small flat-head screwdriver
Thin (around 20 AWG or less) stranded copper wire

Lamp cord or Speaker Wire
Alligator clips

Deep Picture Frames or Shadow Boxes (Enclosure)
-look for imported frames at the El Cheapo store and pray a machine made them

Acrylic/Lexan/Plexiglas/Etc clear polymer sheets
Router or Dremel to cut out the middle of one out of three sheets
RTV (Silicone Glue) - or :
High Temperature Hot Melt Glue (Caution-you don't want the sun to melt it!)

Rectifier Diode such as 1N4001 or 1N4004

Voltage doubler or multiplier circuits (you can make) to increase voltage output.
-examples: ICL7660, MAX1044, MAX232, etc.

Wide Sticky Tape
Double Sticky Foam Tape

Rechargeable Nickel Batteries
Gel Cells or Car Battery (you got one, might as well use it until it's useless)
-Li Ion not recommended because they are harder to charge

Analog volt meter (only because it doesn't need batteries like a digital one)

AC Inverter - if you are charging a powerful battery and would occasionally
run some mains-powered appliance. Some UPS's can be easily modified to
be inverters, if they can be turned on after a power failure.

Sources:
Broken Solar Cells:
Herbach and Rademan
Silicon Solar
Electronic Goldmine

Glass (Amorphous) Solar Cells:
Electronic Goldmine
Note:Other links here may also supply Glass Solar Cells

Indium Copper Selenide Cells:
All Electronics
Edmund Scientific
Electronic Goldmine

Other sources:
Cheap weather damaged solar powered outdoor night lights
-(common failures are circuit corrosion and defective batteries, not the solar cells)
Defective solar calculators, solar charged flashlights, etc.

Perhaps a little off topic:
For a reasonably good deal on Complete and Useful Solar Panels I recommend
"Solar Car Battery Chargers" that are about 1 or 2 watts and between $20 and $30,
whenever an opportunity to get some arises. But those are what I am trying to show
how to Make an approximate equivalent of.

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What is it with these people and emails? Are those spammers? I mean you are giving very detailed instructions on this and they want you to email them with detailed instructions? LOL. I put you in my favs this is great! Most just have instructions but I need pictures too so yours is easy to follow.
diolt3 years ago
Interesting & informative post. Please can some one clear how many panels required to generate 1000 Volts?
evomr978 diolt2 years ago
at least 1,587 high efficiency cells. If each cell is producing a minimum of 0.63 V.
ed_loy3 years ago
what are the sources of those cells?
lhouse ed_loy2 years ago
Ebay, broken cells
Thanks, good instructable!

What's with all the people asking you to email them how to's ? Didn't they bother to read this ?
ehudwill3 years ago
Nice informative instructable. Thanks for sharing.
lizman3 years ago
Thank you very much!!!!
you are such a lier thier is so much soler power you could eat it
Have you tried solar water heating, low flow shower heads, geyser-timers etc etc. I have and its been quite good but I also want to get some PV panels and build up a battery bank, it seem expensive still in SA and there is conflicting information, I went to an Eskom conference last week and advised them that their video and info on turning down geysers was incorrect, the thermo. needs to be zero'd (click) before turning to the desired temp. They said they know.?
Cleasonsook4 years ago
would like to know about "ICL7660"

When I check my local Electronics store
they list 3 different versions

ICL7660CPA
ICL7660CSA
ICL7660SCP

dose it make a difference which one I pick ?
It shouldn't make too much difference. The different letters at the end are often just differences in max levels, whether of efficiency or of other small details. For a small project like this, any of the three should work fine. If you'd like more info on the chips, the datasheets can be found on alldatasheets.com, ti.com, or most other electronics providers sites.
napjax30004 years ago
Very nice article and illustrations. You gave step by step instructions that were easy to understand. I've seen a few more of these on other sites, but got a little lost. Keep up the good work.
AlphaTwin6 years ago
Pretty Darn cool, I've got a little different angle on this. Let me explain. I live in the Midwest U.S. It's gets pretty darn cold/expensive in the winter. With the price of Corn sky rocketing it's no longer cost effective to heat my house with my corn burner. So I started playing with electrolysis to make Hydrogen to burn in my Natural gas Furnace. The problem is if I do this with the grid I'm burning coal not to mention it would be more efficient to forgo the electrolysis step. So here's what I want to do. I'd like to keep a battery charged from a solar panel. My output to the electrolyzer from the battery will be about 12 volts at 20 amps. Keep in mind it will only run for about 10 minutes every 20-30 minutes . That's it, if I can get it to work it will save me about $2000 a year in heating expenses.
Be very careful - hydrogen is a dangerous gas. One little bit of air in there and you have a bomb. I will explain a little more. Hydrogen is the smallest gas molecule you can get. So it leaks through almost any sealing material. Also because of its low molecular weight it reacts with oxygen very quickly which means its "burn rate" is very fast. A lot of the reason you are not already driving a hydrogen powered vehicle has to do with these properties - many millions of dollars have been spent trying to make hydrogen safe to store and make it burn slowly enough not to destroy the engine.
i have pondered hydrogen heating myself, someone needs to make a instructable on hydrogen fuell cell heatingsystems powered by solar energy
fyrspark5 years ago
i've been interested in wind energy as well as solar energy for a while, I want to build my own wnd generator but there are many versions and ideas, can someone point me in the right direction and just tell me how to do it. what type of motor especially, the design portion I have down but getting the motor to produce energy is the confusing part, i.e. what kind of motor is the most effective.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Chispito-Wind-Generator/step2/MATERIALS/
This instructable mentions electric treadmill motors.
SoCell fyrspark4 years ago
I have heard that a DC Motor made by Ametek is what you need. These motors will produce DC current when they turn backwards. You attach your blades per your design and it should turn the motor backwards. You will want a 30VDC Motor with a low RPM rating, under 400RPM @ 30V is the best bet. I hope this is helpful in some way.
digimancer4 years ago
Large umbrella mounted solar panels. Just a thought, might be heavy...
Hiya folks. Just want to say thanks for the site. Loads of info here. I currently live off grid entirely. I have 2 solar panels, 1 X 32 watt and 1 X 80 watt. They are in series and charge 2 deep cycle 12 volt batteries, {deep cycle is VERY important...they can be drawn down and recharged many more times than a regular auto battery) no charge controller because I use the power and the batteries never "cook". My house runs mainly on 12 volt: tv, radio, lights, and I have a small inverter to run my laptop (low power draw) and to charge my pager for the fire department. Living in northern Ontario, our winters are long with short days... only 8 hours of limited solar charging time for the panels, so I am looking for ways to add to my panel bank to keep things better charged up in the winter.I sometimes need to run a generator in the winter to run a charger for my batteries, and I'd like to get away from that, so I am hoping this is the way! Thanks to this site I am now exploring more possibilities! Physics and chemistry and mechanics are NOT my strong suit, but since it is a way of life for me, I am highly motivated to learn how to build panels myself, instead of paying close to 10 bucks a watt for retail panels. Cheers!
telebong4 years ago
thanks to all concern, sites like this evolves ,very helpful and informative!!!!!
du12005 years ago
I'm glad to see someone who's truly interested in helping the planet instead of making a profit!!!!
norkaz5 years ago
Many thanks for this highly instuctive article from a land of sunshine and very expensive solar panels! Thanks!
My comment was deleted, don't know why, but I'll post it again as many want to get cheap parts and recycle broken parts. The solar powered traffic highway warning signs on trailers get damaged by just getting hauled around or encounters with drunk drivers etc. anyway they have to be fixed and the broken panels go into the dumpster many times. Look in the phone book for places that rent these signs and see if they have any broken panels you can experiment with. Many times they might just give them to you.
junits155 years ago
Is that plexiglass? Where did you buy it? I can't find any place that isn't obnoxiously priced!
wibrle junits155 years ago
I found plexiglass at lowes, when I was modding a computer case. Have you tried looking there?
junits15 wibrle5 years ago
I've always known lowes to have it I just though it would be pricy because it is an actual store. How moch did you pay? How much did you get?
wibrle junits155 years ago
For normal 1/8 inch thick plexiglass (in US currency) $43.99 for 36"x72", $6.77 for 18"x24", and $19.37 for 24"x48"; there where more sizes, but this gives you an idea. For the thick 1/4 inch plexiglass $13.49 for 16"x24" and $42.97 for 24"x48". Lows also carried high impact plexiglass, but it was high, so I didn't bother looking at the prices.
doobiesh6 years ago
hey guys I have a solar panel which is from radioshack but I'm not sure what is the top plastic layer is supposed to be. it looks like a bunch of tiny lenses but I'm not sure what they are.
Did you ever burn ants as a kid.... Same principle, just a bunch of magnifying lenses.
Doob, they are basically mini-fresnel lenses to focus the sun's energy. They use a similar technique on motion sensor lights to for focusing infrared energy to the sensor.
DualPhase5 years ago
So are there any recommendations on some places to go to find these broken ones for the cheapest?
A very good project.
dasl5 years ago
i want to make solar cell but unfortunatlly im not good in electronics and tell me how connect wire with glass
Thank you!!!!!
Ausi3195 years ago
where can i get the solar cells?(broken) and i can put them together i'm thinking about making a battery/solar powered go kart!
panstar15 years ago
I did buy broken solar cells from goldmine. I thought if this work all right !! but if it didn't it was only $9.00. What I got though was really quit useless except for really small projects. It would be better to just wait and buy a panel made for charging then it would be to do this even so canadian tire ( I am in canada) sells small panels for around 20 to 30 ,even a 15 watt panel goes on sail once and a while. but for me I just don't think would think help me solve my problem. IE. parents have a camp not hydro so they use a generator /battery iron lead I think so I though this instrucable could have been useful. But all in all this would be good for cell phones or mp3 ,i-pods though. I hoe tis is useful
Sandisk1duo6 years ago
wait, so in the circuit (voltage doubler) ground is positive??

Electronic-goldmine has super cheap solar panels right now, $1.00 for 0.5v and 0.4-0.5 amps i'd buy them, (If i had a credit card.)
Quick note:
Watts = volts * amps
so .5 v * .5 amp = 0.25 w for $1 (the link now says $1.89), which comes to $4 ($7.56) per watt

I mention this more as a warning, I've seen a few places offer solar cells or "cut"/broken down pieces of panels for prices about this, where when all is said and done the price doesn't work out to be a good deal at all.
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