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
  • 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
Craig Couden

Craig Couden

Craig is an editorial assistant with MAKE, and among other things enjoys video games and light up clothing.