Solar panel technology has advanced tremendously in recent years and the solar panels produced today are more durable and efficient than ever before. They will last years longer than older panels and will generate more power than ever from the same amount of sunlight.
Having said this, these modern solar panels are still built from the same basic components as older panels, and in very much the same way. A solar panel is largely just a collection of these individual solar cells that have been mounted in a weatherproof enclosure and wired together to produce a given amount of power.
The reason that many of these newer solar panels are more efficient is because the solar cells used to build them are more efficient. When you build your own solar panel, you can use these same solar cells as the basis for your homemade solar panel.
To build your own solar panel, you only need a few components and taking the time to locate them and assembling them into a functional solar panel can save you a lot of money over buying a completed solar panel.
The first thing you’ll need are the solar cells. There are many different options with these and you need to know the difference so you can find the best cells you can afford. There are two types of readily available solar cells and they both are popular for different reasons.
The most efficient solar cell is called a monocrystalline cell and is made from a single cell with a continuous lattice within the cell. These types of solar cells are more expensive than other cells, but will give you the highest output of energy and last the longest.
The other choice is polycrystalline and these cells are made up of a collection of individual cells to produce a unified cell. These produce slightly less power, but can be less expensive than the monocrystalline cells.
Once you have decided on the type of cells you want to use, you are ready to mount and wire them.You will need a strong backing board to mount the solar cells on, to ensure they wont move or warp when exposed to the elements.
A thick piece of plywood works well for this and can also be great as the back of the solar panel enclosure. Once you have the wood selected you next need to figure out how large to make the backing board.
The solar cells you bought will normally come with a wiring diagram for the cells to produce different voltages. Decide on a voltage to see how many cells are needed and then lay them out in a rectangle to give you the size you need for the backing board. Be sure to leave about an inch of space all the way around so you have room for the sides of the box.
Now cut the backing board to the correct size and mount the solar cells to it so you can start wiring them together. Once you have finished the mounting, start wiring the solar cells together as per the diagram and be careful when routing the wires between cells. You need to make sure that these wires are routed in such a way as to not block the cells from the sun as this will decrease their power output.
Once all of the cells are mounted and wired, you need to add sides to the enclosure and a top. The top needs to be transparent to let the sun pass through and strike the solar cells. Plexiglas works great for this and is fairly inexpensive as well. Be sure to use a liberal amount of caulking to seal your enclosure to protect it from the elements.
Once you have the enclosure built and sealed, you can mount the unit in the sun and enjoy the free power.