The sun is a renewable energy source that’s free and plentiful. Some people power their entire home with solar energy. A few even sell back the energy to the electricity grid for a profit.
I decided to start small and build my own solar panels to supplement my workshop power needs. Here, I’ll explain in detail how to build a 16.5-volt, 20-watt solar panel.
In the next volume of MAKE, I’ll show you how to integrate the solar panel(s) into your electrical system.
- 1/2″ watertight compression wire connector
- Copper 18AWG hookup wire
- Ring tongue terminals (2)
- 20-watt DIY Solar Panel Kit — part #DIY20W, about $49. Available at siliconsolar.com.
- 1/4″ stainless steel split lock washers (24)
- 1-1/2″×1/4″ stainless steel pan head bolts (12)
- 1/4″ stainless steel flat washers (24)
- 1/4″-20 stainless steel finished hex nuts (12)
- 1/4″ acrylic cut to the following sizes: 2 sheets 18″×24″, 2 pieces 1″×16″, 2 pieces 1″×24″, 2 pieces 1″×10″ — You can buy custom-cut acrylic at a local glass company, or you can order McMaster-Carr part #8589K83, which you’ll have to cut to size.
- Ribbon wire — for connecting solar cells, Silicon Solar part #04-1010
- 60/40 rosin-core solder, .05″ diameter — RadioShack part #64-006
- Devcon Duco Cement — McMaster-Carr part #7447A16, or similar clear plastic cement
- GE Silicone II sealant — or similar clear silicone sealant
- RTV silicone adhesive — found at auto parts stores
- Rosin soldering flux 2oz non-spill paste — RadioShack part #64-022
- Chassis-mount dual female binding post — RadioShack part #274-718
- Project enclosure 5″×2-1/2″×2″ — RadioShack part #270-1803
- Soldering iron or gun — Gun is preferred.
- Voltage/amp meter
- Soldering helping hands
- Wire cutters
- Power drill with 1/4″ and 3/4″ bits
- Jigsaw (optional) — only if cutting your own acrylic
- Acrylic cutting knife (optional) — also used when soldering the cells
- Flathead screwdriver
- One-handed bar clamps