Solar energy is radiant energy, produced by the intense process of nuclear fusion in the sun's core, and knowing how to build a solar panel will help you harness that power. Building a solar panel is one of the best ways to take advantage of the energy the sun radiates and harness it for the power we need to run our appliances and heat our homes. Learning how to build a solar panel is not difficult and is also relatively inexpensive. It’s a little known fact that the sun radiates more energy in one second than humans have used since the beginning of time. It's about time that this renewable energy source was more widely put to use through the building of solar panels.
A solar panel is basically several solar cells placed in a box and wired together. The amount of power it will produce depends on its size. Mono-crystalline solar cells come in a variety of sizes, 3" x 6" being a common standard size. It requires at least 36 of this size cell, wired together, to produce about 18 volts (enough to charge a 12v battery). Determine how much energy the solar panel will need to produce to arrive at an appropriate size.
To build a solar panel collect these tools and supplies:
- Safety glasses
- Solar cells: Obtain from a solar cell retailer or secondhand through online warehouses
- Plywood and wood trim
- Wiring and solder
- Silicone caulk
- Diodes and copper wire
- Screws and duct tape
- Begin by drawing out the basic diagram on the first piece of plywood. The solar cells will be placed on the board in strips. According to the size of the solar cells being used, draw out how they will be laid on the board.
- Gently lay the solar cells in place (they are fragile). Begin soldering them together (negative side of one to positive side of next) until the row is complete.
- Place a dime to quarter size amount of silicone caulk on the center of each cell and flip them over onto the plywood. press gently to secure them in place (connect each cell strip together with a twist of copper wire). Repeat this process until all of the strips of solar cells have been affixed to the plywood.
- Attach the wood trim around the edges of the plywood to create a border for attaching the Plexiglas cover. Hammer finishing nails into the edges to attach the trim to the plywood.
- Fill any big gaps with silicon. Make sure to leave an opening for the wiring.
- Finish wiring all the panels together while the silicon cures.
- Each panel in the system needs a blocking diode in the series to prevent it from discharging the battery at night or during cloudy weather. Use some silicone caulk to anchor the diode inside the panel.
- After all wiring is complete and the silicon is cured, screw the Plexiglas cover onto the solar panel frame. Use duct tape around the edges to seal out moisture.
- The voltage generated can be tested with an amp meter.
- Attach a plug to run something directly from the solar panel. Attach the positive and negative wires to a battery to charge it up and store the solar energy for later use.
To build a solar panel requires very easily acquired tools and supplies and minimal effort but delivers a massive savings in energy consumption. It is healthier for the planet and can supply clean, renewable energy for the many generations to come.