Introduction: Recycled Solar Power

Picture of Recycled Solar Power

This is about a Solar Power Plant made from recycled parts. It is a work in progress. It all started at the landfill where someone next to me was throwing away 11 solar garden lights. I had 9 at home from garage sales. I had an old picture frame and some plywood and paint. I had to buy 4 diodes from radio shack. I started by taking all the lights apart and using the solar cells. I saved the circuit boards and LED's for future projects. The plastic globe made nice little hot caps for the garden.

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I painted the board with some old house paint. I soldered 5 in a row pos. to neg. I think that 4 would have been OK I will know when I get done. Each set is putting out 22 volt in good sun.

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I mounted the cells with a little hot glue then soldered a diode to the pos. on each set and into a splice on a single cord. Next I spliced all the neg. ends to a single exit wire. I dabbed a little hot glue over the solder joints to keep everything in place. I hot glued the picture frame over everything leaving the bottom un glued for a little ventalation.

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The first test. Over 22 volts on a winter day. Tried it vertical and horizontal. I have no idea of how many watts.

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I cut some scrap plywood and nailed and glued it to the sides. I cut them at 60 degrees for Washington state.

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I used the globes for hot caps out in the garden.

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Next I cut some holes in an old sewing box. Added a 12 volt receptical Made an opening for the inverter and an exit hole for the solar panel wire. Soldered both pos. to each other same with negs. a fuse will attach to the hot wire when I find one. Just for testing I wired it up with no regulator or fuse. I salvaged the 2 12 volt batteries out of a broken electric razor kids scooter. I used a 2 pronged plug to exit the box and plug into the solar panel wire. The voltage in the batteries went from 9.5 volts to over 11 volts with very little sun. I ordered a voltage controller off E-Bay $22. It will be here in a few days.


Supersonic415 (author)2017-07-05

does anyone know the simplest configuration similar to this that I would need to charge a phone? I have 11 solar panels (and 6 more smaller panels) I need it by the day after tomorrow

rush_elixir (author)2017-01-30

nice recycling...good work

JanN55 (author)2016-09-27

I would like to make a solar powered outside outlet for a fish pond pump. Any solutions for a DIY gal with no solar intellect lls

wmada (author)2015-05-21

hi. can any one offer any explanation. I have 8 solar cells. each tests at 3.1v i hooked them all in series i got up n down numbers as if bad cells of wires. so i took apart. i hooked 3 cells and get 9.1 v good i guess right? but wont drive a dc fan motor.? so anyways I went to add another cell to row and i drop to 2 volt. i figure bad cell? so i get two rows each 9 v but when i connect those two i only get 9 v? what am i doing wrong? i tried connecting the two rows in series and parallel any thoughts?

DeenooS (author)wmada2016-02-11

Hi, maybe it is a bit too late for an answer, i had the same problem but finally i figured out what it was, i had about 20 cells, i had to test each of them to get similar voltage and amperage, i isolated 6 most powerful, it was enough only 6 of the good ones to get 12 volts. Before that i couldn't get more than 5 Volts out of 20 cells.

lyle.baker.39 (author)2015-03-05

Actually, 4 diodes was the correct choice. They serve 2 purposes. 1, they keep the array from discharging the batteries when there is no light, and 2, they keep a bad cell in one of the lines from stealing the current from the others. The loss is exactly the same since each of the 4 paths only pass though 1 diode. Using 4 also lets you get away with cheaper diodes since each diode only has to handle 1/4 of the total current. If you use 1 diode it has to handle the current from all 4 arrays. With 4 diodes, you actually lose less power. Power loss is the the internal resistance of the diode times the current squared. So for example, lets say the internal resistance of the diodes is 1 ohm and each of the legs provides 1 amp of current. With 4 diodes, your total loss would be 1 ohm X 1 amp x 1 amp = 1 Watt (per diode) for a total of 4 watts loss. If a single diode was used you would have 1 ohm x 4 amp x 4 amp = 16 watts loss.

PeaceNZ (author)lyle.baker.392015-08-16

Hi. Being an absolute beginner and not knowing my butt from my elbow. What is a diode? I assume they come in different sizes so what size should be used here?

Huntr98 (author)lyle.baker.392015-04-22

loved this project but may I ask when you measured 22volts from each of the 4 rows of five cells did you measure that before or after the Diodes?

Awgdwg (author)2015-03-06

What size diodes?
What size solar panels. Mine only put out about 1.4 volts each

jim.marandola (author)2015-03-05

The charge controller will tell you the wattage.

john.w.jarvis.7 (author)2015-01-25

is there a video for this? i understand these types of things better when I can see it being done. And I need to build one of these.

spylock (author)2014-06-19

Good job on the solar by the way.Ive got many cells from old garden lights,and was planning on doing something like this,being that store bought panels are so high,thanks to oil companies,and other like minded crooks.Some of mine are different shapes,so I will see what I can come up with.

spylock (author)2014-06-19

Have you still got the scooter?The motor may make a hellova nice wind turbine,depending on which motor you have.

goldamazon (author)2014-04-05

the one concern I have with putting the inverter and the battery in an old sewing box like that is the fact that the inverter needs to be kept cool and the battery when it's charging gives off a small amount of corrosive gas. Or a large amount if your battery is bad. So if your putting them in a small box so close together you might wind up with corroding the inner workings of your inverter by the gasses from the battery or overheating the inverter because not enough cool air.

Macattacku (author)2013-09-10

Those batterys probably cant hold a good charge anymore anyways. From what u said they have been sitting at 9 volts. They are probably badly sulfated. When you put a heavy load on it the voltage will drop like a rock.

jimbo13 (author)2013-01-22

if you tested it with a volt meter and no load connected then that is open circuit volts, so real volts with a load would be about 18 volts.

Gelfling6 (author)2012-11-12

I've done this with a bunch of much older solar lights.. these had a small 6V Gel Cell, (which usually was well cooked/dry) and a BIG 4"-Square solar panel which would generate up to 8V. (never really got the chance to measure the mA output.) I used to run a 9V transistor radio off one two in series.. No ideas where the heck I put it, though.. Yes, these are totally reusable! I almost had a fit when someone dumped a whole bunch of these style lamps off at the local recycling center, and before I could collect more than 3, the town employee grabbed the whole bunch, into a pail, and put them in the electronics bin. (which made them Hands-Off.. The town collects electronics for (they say) payment from the recyclers. (if they think they'll make millions on the gold, I'd hate to see how much they'll spend on the excess scrap they can't..)

earthwindwater (author)2012-01-27

Nice Up-cycling! One tip to save you some money on the next one. You don't need a diode on all runs. You only need one at the end after you combine all the circuits. It is all you need to keep the battery from draining.

divudi2 (author)2011-03-29

yes, formula is very much correct

yogadavid (author)2011-03-23

Could you please tellme what Diod you used. Thanks for instructable. I have quite a few garden lights and there are very few instructables on using garden pannels for arrays.

aleutianwind (author)yogadavid2011-03-24

Hi I don't remember what the diodes were. I got them at radio shack. You only need one for this size project. I found out I was using too many and they used too much power.

coolsciencetech (author)2009-07-28

watts=amps x volts I believe


shadow4742 (author)2010-08-09

im sorry i didnt get that last part, could you repeat that?

Nerdz (author)2010-02-02

You may only need 1 blocking Diode, not a total of 4. Using 4 Results in a loss of power. Assuming you used silicon diodes, thats 2.8V Loss. At High Currents it could result in a few Watts of power Loss from your panel.

killroy (author)2010-01-18

I have the same question as koulis1 and jimsss what diode did you use and what was the voltage of each solar cell from the lamps.

aleutianwind (author)killroy2010-01-18

Hi. I have taken this panel apart and added the parts on to a piece of plywood with a big mess of other solar cells i have collected and a recycled 8-D battery.  The diodes came from radio shack and were cheap. I can't find the package and don't remember the size. Most of the wire was from old light cords. The inverter was to large for those batterys, a 100 watt cig.lighter inverter would be better and could just be plugged into the socket. The voltage was around 19 to 23 per string of 5 cells so i would guess they average out around 4 each.  Oh Don't use hot glue! What was i thinking, By august the rows had sagged in the middle.

hancer (author)2010-01-10

koulis1 (author)2009-08-24

I have the same question as jimsss. What diode did you use ?

jimsss (author)2009-07-23

what diedo s did you use

mattccc (author)2009-06-15

i was thinking of this idea too

FeedTheGrid (author)2009-04-24

Well done. I like the hot-caps in the garden, too.

emdarcher (author)2009-04-21

I cant believe people where giving and throwing away those solar lights! I wish I had got those kind of neighbors in a way

explosivemaker (author)emdarcher2009-04-23

...very much agreed....

DIY Dave (author)2009-04-20


strmrnnr (author)2009-04-20

Good Idea. I have another idea for you. If the panals were wired with strong multistrand wire you could mount the panels to a piece of heavy canvas or leather and then you could fold it up and take it camping with you.

julesfl (author)2009-04-20

Wonderful project! Recycle the solar panels, cool, and portable!!

collins75s3c (author)2009-04-19

Your project is excellent. To find the max watts for your panel, use an ammmeter to measure what is called short circuit current in full sun. Most DVM's have a 10 amp current position on them. Connect the DVM (set on amperes) directly across the output leads of you panel. Multiply the open circuit volatge times the short circuit current to get the max watts that the panel can put out. You will get slightly less than this, as the voltage falls when the panel is loaded.

muzza.wood (author)2009-04-19

Hi, This is very interesting and thanks for your effort. I have a question about the wiring. What sort of diode would it be? and what kind of cord was it spliced into? Thanks ./muzza

PKM (author)2009-04-19

I have no idea how many watts

A low-power incandescent lightbulb is a convenient resistor that you can use for measuring power. Connect the panel to the lightbulb, then measure the voltage across the lightbulb (multimeter in parallel) and the current flowing through it (multimeter in series), then multiply the two together. I would expect a few watts from the size of your panels- the average garden light solar cell seems to be rated at 150 to 200 milliwatts, so 20 of those could provide 3 or 4 watts in good sunlight.

Lftndbt (author)2009-04-19

LoL, here lies the death of the solar garden light. People expect them to be missing in the morning. I sell solar garden lights. For some reason I have never thought to harvest the solar panel out of them, before throwing the damaged ones out. I will be sure to follow your I'ble once I can get some.

chichimus (author)2009-04-18

Thats Great. I was thinking of the same thing today while cleaning out the garage :) I am going to ask around work if anyone has any defunct lights.

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