Building a Solar Panel

The alternative energy club met last weekend to construct a solar panel. Larry generously volunteered his solar panel kit for the experiment, with hopes of a new panel. Rather than individual solar cells, the kit included little “mini-panels” that were each pre-wired. The “mini-panels” simply needed to be soldered together to form a larger, single unit.

Fifteen people in all showed up throughout the day and many hands worked on the project. First the group determined the layout of the solar cells, arranging them to fit the metal frame donated by Randy. A thin board was then prepared as a mount for the solar cells, with holes drilled to accommodate the wiring. Glue was used to adhere the cells to the wooden backing, and was allowed to set briefly before turning it over.

Then the solar electricians stepped in and wired the cells together with a soldering gun. The final output yielded approximately 20 volts DC and generated 2.4 amps of current. All together that is about 50 watts of usable power. Once the prototype kit was assembled the group went outside to test it. We were able to power an LED light bulb while the panel was in the sun. Success!

The total cost of the panel was about $200. In the end it worked out to be less than commercial prices, though not especially cheap. Other club members have purchased individual solar cells at much lower prices and are going to attempt the tedious task of connecting each cell. The work will be much more delicate and demanding, but hopefully the final price will be worth it.

While everyone was gathered for the solar panel project, Patrick took the opportunity to also share his LED light bulb design with interested club members.