by PHL Council
Solar panel construction isn’t as difficult as you might think. Professionally built solar panels are normally constructed using high quality materials and procedures. These materials are often very expensive to purchase for the average person. They use these because they have to back their product for a very long time and can’t afford to use materials that need maintenance or might break.
We can use this to our advantage to save tons of cash! Most commercial solar panels use aluminum for their frame. We can just use wood, but seal it around the edges so it will survive the outdoors.
Basically, we’ll be building a small wood box. We can use plywood for the bottom of the box and just about any type wood for the framing or shallow sides of the box will work great. We will need to seal the joints with silicone. We will also need to seal the wood with an exterior sealant to keep the wood from rotting and water from getting inside. It will have to withstand the elements 24/7.
For the front of the box we will be using a piece of plexiglas. Make sure it’s UV-proof, this will ensure it stays as clear as possible and doesn’t fade. Using plexiglas will also ensure it doesn’t break or crack if the solar panel is hit by anything. You could use a sheet of glass instead of plexiglas if you can keep it from breaking.
We will be using this frame to keep the solar cells protected from the elements. The size and shape of the panel will determine the layout and number of solar cells we can use. The larger box we build, the more solar cells we can utilize. The more cells we have, the more power we produce!
The solar cells that we are going to be using for our solar panel construction are the same exact cells that are used in professional solar panels. The face is we’re going to save money because we’re going to solder them together ourselves. It’s not that difficult!
Just like any other electronic device, solar cells have a positive connector and a negative connector. We will be connecting (soldering) them with a specific wire called a “tabbing wire”. We will go from the positive to the negative side. This will connect them in a series circuit and allows us to add the output voltage of each cell to get the total output voltage. For example, if we have 64 solar cells at 0.5 volts each we would get 32 volts.
For further detailed directions, go to http://www.squidoo.com/solarcabin for step-by-step pictures and a video guide on solar panel construction.