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How do I Build a Solar Panel?

By T. L. Childree
Updated May 23, 2024
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You can usually build a solar panel in just one day by following a few simple instructions. In order to build a solar panel, you will need to obtain a sufficient quantity of solar cells, flat-tabbed and insulated copper wire, a sheet of plywood and Plexiglas®, wooden strips, and silicone sealant. The first step is to connect the wiring to the solar cells and mount them to the plywood. Then make a frame around the perimeter of the plywood with wooden strips and attach the Plexiglas® to it. After you build a solar panel, secure it in a sunny location and connect the electrical wires to the power system.

Before you can build a solar panel, you will need enough solar cells to supply the desired amount of electricity and enough flat-tabbed wires to connect them. A roll of insulated copper wire will be required to connect the solar panel to the power system. You will also need a sheet of pressure-treated plywood and an equal sized sheet of Plexiglas® material. A length of 1 inch (2.5 cm) by 1 inch (2.5 cm) wood, wood screws, silicone sealant, and solder must be purchased as well. Tools such as a soldering iron, wood saw, and drill will also be needed to build a solar panel.

Begin by soldering two pieces of flat-tabbed wire to the bottom side of each solar cell. The length of these flat-tabbed wires should be equivalent to twice the width of the solar cells. Cut the plywood to the appropriate size and draw a placement grid on its surface. Lay out the solar cells in rows and solder the flat-tabbed wires from the bottom of one cell to the top of the next one. Repeat this process until all cells are wired together in a single string, beginning with the first row and continuing to the last.

When laying out the rows of solar cells, leave a 3 inch (7.6 cm) space at the edges of the plywood to attach the Plexiglas® panel. Solar cells are easily damaged, so handle them carefully. Next, lift each cell from its position and place a small amount of silicone sealant in the center of the bottom side. Press each solar cell firmly against the plywood and allow the sealant to cure. When this procedure is completed, you should be left with one negative and one positive wire going to the entire string of cells.

Solder the negative and positive wires from the string of solar cells to one end of the insulated copper wire. Cut the wooden strips to fit around the edges of the plywood and apply sealant to one side. Attach the sealant side of the strips to the plywood and fasten them securely with wood screws. Drill a hole in the plywood, run the copper wire through it, and seal the hole with silicone. Drill an additional hole at the bottom of the plywood for drainage.

Apply a bead of silicone sealant to the top side of the wooden strips and attach the Plexiglas® to them. Drill several pilot holes in the Plexiglas® and secure the material with wood screws. Allow the sealant to cure and securely position the solar panel in a sunny area. Attach the insulated copper wire to your power system to complete the installation.

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