Building your own solar generator is an inexpensive way to get started with solar power. With just a few common household items and basic electronic components, you can make a simple solar generator capable of charging phones, batteries or other small devices. In this guide, I'll walk you through each step of the process to build a tiny solar generator from scratch using only about $5 worth of scrap parts.

What You Will Need

To build the solar generator, you will need the following materials:

Solar Panel


Wiring and Electronics

Box (optional)


Total Cost: Around $5

Most of these parts can be salvaged from old devices or purchased very cheaply. The solar panel is the most expensive component but small 0.5W to 3W panels can be found for $2 to $5.

Step 1: Prepare the Solar Panel

To start, take apart a small solar powered yard light or garden light to salvage the solar panel. Carefully open up the plastic housing and desolder the solar panel from the circuit board inside.

Be sure not to damage the metal tabs on the back of the solar panel that will be used for connections later. Also, set aside any batteries or circuits from inside the light - we may be able to reuse some of these components.

Step 2: Wire Up the Battery and Diode

Next, we need to connect the rechargeable battery to a diode to prevent discharge at night.

The diode should only allow current to flow in one direction - from the solar panel to charge the battery - preventing the battery from discharging back through the panel at night.

Step 3: Connect the Solar Panel

Now we can wire up the solar panel to our battery circuit.

This will allow power generated from the solar panel to charge the battery through the diode.

Step 4: Add a USB Charger (Optional)

To make our solar generator more useful, we can add a USB charging module. This will allow us to charge phones, tablets or other USB devices.

Now we will be able to charge USB devices directly from the power stored in the battery.

Step 5: Enclose in a Case (Optional)

For a more finished look, you can mount all of the components inside a plastic food container or project enclosure.

The case helps protect the electronics and makes the solar generator fully portable.

Usage Tips

That's it! To use your new solar generator:

Some usage tips:

And that's all there is to it! With just a few dollars worth of basic parts, you can build your own portable solar power source.