How to Build a Solar Panel from Scrap Materials

Building your own solar panel from scrap materials can be a fun and rewarding project. With just a few basic components, you can harness the power of the sun to generate electricity. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a solar panel from scratch using recycled materials.

Gather the Necessary Materials

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

Prepare the Solar Cells

Start by testing your salvaged solar cells with a multimeter to determine the positive and negative sides. Mark the polarity with a permanent marker.

Trim the cells down to approximately 3 inch by 6 inch size with a glass cutter or rotary tool. Carefully smooth any sharp edges. Clean both sides of the cells with isopropyl alcohol.

Assemble the Circuit

Solder the tabs in a series connection on the top of the cells. Position the cells so the positive side of one connects to the negative side of the next.

Solder lengthwise copper wire interconnects between each cell to complete the circuit.

Check the open circuit output voltage - you should have around 5-6 volts for a 6 cell panel.

Laminate the Solar Cells

Cut the plexiglass to size, approximately 1-2 inches larger than the solar cell array. Drill two holes in the corners for mounting.

Lay the cells face down on the plexiglass and run a thin bead of clear sealant around each cell, sealing them to the backing.

Allow several hours for the sealant to fully cure before continuing. The panel can be left in the sun to speed curing.

Add the Frame and Wire Connections

Attach a picture frame backing or build a simple frame out of wood strips or extruded PVC. Glue or screw it together around the edge of the plexiglass backing.

Solder the positive and negative wires to the tabs coming off the end of the solar cell circuit. Drill a hole in the frame and feed the wires through to the back.

Seal any gaps or openings in the frame with additional silicone caulk to weatherproof it.

Once the sealant has fully cured, your solar panel is ready to be mounted and used!

With a simple frame and scrap materials, you can build a free renewable energy source. Experiment with different cell arrangements and quantities to increase the power output.