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How To Build A Solar Panel From Scratch And Generate Power

Robert Green, while studying for a studying computer engineering, and on a summer break decided he was going to learn more about solar energy and how to build a solar panel from scratch. He was curious about how solar panels actually worked and being a student he couldn’t afford one.

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To start off, he watched a number of videos on how to build a solar panel, and he found none that had the complete process. Next, he joined online forums chatting about solar energy, inorder to gain more insights into the technical details of the process.

As he worked away building his solar panel, a thought hit him. Why not make a video teaching other people how to build solar panels from scratch. Robert decided to do a free free video as a way of giving back to others.

This is how the idea of a video on building a 63 watt solar system came about.

Part 1

First make a template for the solar cells. use a apare piece of regular plywood, a piece of regular cardboard the size of a solar cell, some tile spacers, and a staple gun to create the template. Use tile spacers to help keep the solar cells even as seen in Part 1 of the video.

Step 1: Creating A Template & Putting Frame Together

Use a ruler to keep everything aligned and straight, a jigsaw makes it easier to cut the plywood, but a regular hand saw will do ok as well.

Finished the template, start putting the frame together. Use a 1x2x8 piece of plywood, cut that to fit the outer frame of the plywood, to make sure the outer frame is not too high to prevent from loosing any sunlight will use. place the pieces of plywood on top of the 2×4 pressure treated plywood, screwed those down and sand the entire frame afterward as seen in Part 2 of the video.

After sanding and cleaning up any extra dust left over, apply the Deck and Siding paint onto the frame. prefarably use 2 coats for a nice seal from UV rays, making it water resistant. Then place 2 coats of the Deck and Stain paint on the 2×4 piece of pegboard.

Step 2: Assembling The Solar Cells


Next, while the first coat is drying, start 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. Connect the solar cells in series, with a total of 36 solar cells, which will give you 63 watts.  Use tabbing wire with a soldering iron to connect the solar cells together. For the panel use 3 strings of solar cells.

To connect those strings of solar cells, use 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, It is 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: Create Holes For the Connections


Next, once the pegboard and plywood have 2 coats of Deck and Siding paint, screw the pegboard down inside the frame (plywood). Then place the solar cells inside the frame to get an idea of where you will need to place the screws, and then take the solar cells back out once the marks are made, then screw the pegboard down. Next drill 2 holes at the end of your frame for the negative and positive connections to run out of. Find more about this in Part 4 of the video.

Step 4: Glue The Solar Cells Down


Next, glue the strings of solar cells down to the pegboard with silicon. Watch Part 5 to see the method used.

When the two strings are completed,  solder the bus wire on one end to bond the two strings of solar cells together. Watch Part 5 and Part 6 of the video to see how to do it.

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


Next, after hooking all 3 strings of solar cells up in series, Get the 22 gauge wires (red and black) ready for soldering. On the ends of the leads from the gauge wires, connect 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 it is done.

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

Step 6: Visiting The Electric Side


Next, in Part 9 of the video, you see 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. First hook the solar panel connections up to the solar side of the charge controller, and from the battery connection side of the charge controller,hook that up to the deep cycle battery. From the battery, connect that up to the inverter, and then you are ready to go. Again, watch Part 9 to see the whole process and see devices you can power off the solar system.

The finished product


source instructables

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