Building your own solar panel from scratch can be a fun and rewarding project that also saves you money on your energy bills. With just a few basic materials, you can make a simple solar panel capable of generating enough electricity to power small devices and charge batteries. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you step-by-step through the entire process and show you how to build an effective solar panel on a budget of under $50.

What You Will Need

To build a basic solar panel at home, you will need the following materials:

Solar Cells

The solar cells are the most important part of the solar panel and are responsible for converting sunlight into electricity. For this project, monocrystalline silicon solar cells work best as they offer high efficiency in a small space. You can find affordable solar cells sold individually or in packs on online retailers. Aim for around 6 3V/500mA solar cells for a 6V 3W output solar panel.

Tabbing Wire

Thin copper tabbing wire is used to interconnect all the solar cells in series. This allows the currents to accumulate and the voltages to add up. Get tabbing wire in a thickness of 0.15-0.2mm.

bus wire

A thicker gauge wire known as a bus wire is soldered to the end of the cell strip to act as a positive and negative terminal. A 14 AWG wire works well.

Wooden Board

The solar cells need to be mounted on a sturdy backing. A small wooden board, tile, or plastic sheet can be used.

Epoxy resin

Epoxy is used to glue the solar cells flush onto the backing. Ensure it is solar grade and transparent.

Plexiglass sheet

A plexiglass sheet covers the front of the panel to protect the cells from weathering.

Silicone sealant

Clear silicone waterproofs the panel by sealing the edges.

Soldering iron, flux, gloves, etc.

Other items like soldering tools, safety gloves, wire cutters, etc. will be handy.

Building the Solar Panel Step-by-Step

Follow these steps to assemble the solar panel:

Step 1: Prepare the Wooden Board

Cut a wooden board, tile, or plastic to the desired size of your panel. Sand and prime the surface if needed. Drill small holes in the corners for mounting.

Step 2: Arrange the Solar Cells

Arrange the 6 solar cells flush together on the board how you want them oriented. Cells generate the most power perpendicular to sunlight, so align them accordingly.

Step 3: Solder the Tab Wires

Solder thin tab wires between the cells to interconnect them in series. Connect the negative side of one cell to the positive side of the next cell. Repeat until all cells are connected.

Step 4: Solder the Bus Wires

Solder thicker bus wires to the end tabs to act as terminals for the whole panel. Attach a positive bus wire to the positive end cell and a negative bus wire to the negative end cell.

Step 5: Glue the Cells

Spread a layer of epoxy resin on the board and gently press the arranged solar cells flat down into the epoxy. Allow several hours to fully cure and harden before moving the panel.

Step 6: Waterproof

Run a bead of clear silicone around the edges of the panel to waterproof it. Allow to fully cure for 24 hours.

Step 7: Add the Plexiglass Cover

Cut a piece of plexiglass to size and drill 4 corner holes. Place plexiglass over the solar cells and screw in corner brackets to hold in place.

Step 8: Connect Wires and Use

Attach wires to the bus wire terminals. Your DIY solar panel is now ready to provide power!

Finding the Right Balance - Key Considerations

Building a quality DIY solar panel involves finding the right balance between several key factors:

Usage and Applications

A small 6V 3W solar panel is useful for:

While limited in output, a DIY panel gives valuable experience working with solar components for creating larger systems down the road.


Constructing your own basic solar panel from scratch is a satisfying way to lower energy bills while learning about renewable energy. For under $50, you can build a 6V 3W system using simple materials and basic tools. Follow the step-by-step instructions to interconnect 6 solar cells in series on a backing. With proper mounting and weatherproofing, your homemade solar panel will provide free sunlight-generated electricity for years to come.