It is easy to build a 12V solar panel if you know how. This step-by-step guide is designed to teach you if you want to build one but are clueless on how to start.
This article also illustrates the sequence to building a 12V solar panel so you’ll have the least trouble.
After reading the 5 steps, I’m confident no matter how confused you are, you’ll be able to move along to begin designing your first photovoltaic panel:
Step 1 – Source for solar cells.
There are a total of 3 ways you can get a solar (photovoltaic) cell — you can buy them, you can salvage used or broken solar cells or you can even make them.
If you intend to use your solar panels for long, I recommend you buy them. Although they’re more expensive, they yield more power and can last longer. Thus you won’t need to make another solar panel a few years down the road.
If you intend to make a solar panel just for fun, you can join pieces of used or broken solar cells to make up a complete solar panel. They won’t be the most professional looking photovoltaic panels around, but who cares, they’re just for fun!
And if you feel more adventurous, you can even make your own solar panel by heating up copper plates to form cuprous oxide, which is a form of semiconductor by itself. These homemade solar cells are inefficient at best and only produce microwatts of power per cell. But if you’re just having some fun are feeling adventurous, why not?
Step 2 – Soldering the solar cells
To form a 12V supply, we have to solder the photovoltaic cells in series so they add up to 12V collectively. While many solar cells are rated at 0.5V each, you’ll have to check its specification before buying and using them. Some may not rated at 0.5V.
With 24 solar cells connected in series, we can easily make an array of solar cells that produce 12V supply.
However voltage is only part of the equation. We also have to consider the current output of the solar cells. With the correct voltage and sufficient current, we’ll have enough power to drive the application of your choice.
Step 3 – Pasting solar cells onto a substrate
After soldering the solar cells, you can prepare to paste them onto a substrate. Many hobbyists prefer to use silicone caulk to do this. However you’ll need to employ the correct technique to paste the solar cells using silicone caulk. Otherwise the cells may crack just after a short period of use.
Step 4 – Put the array of solar cells with a protective box
After the substrate is done, you’ll have to make a box to contain the substrate. This can be made of wood, plastic or metal. Each has its unique advantages and disadvantages.
The protective box is done last. This is because you can then be flexible to alter your solar panel design if you need to add more solar cells to the setup. This will free you from some worrying.
After the box is completed, you can hold down the substrate in the protective box using blobs of silicone caulk.
Step 5 — Cover the solar panel box
Finally, you’ll have to cover the box with a transparent plastic or glass. This will keep precipitation and dew from destroying your solar cells and metallic joints. Many hobbyists choose plexiglass because it’s not as fragile as glass. The choice is entirely up to you.
After completing these 5 steps, your solar panel is ready to produce electricity for you.