Building your solar panels DIY and assembling solar cells doesn’t take a NASA engineer. It takes getting prepared, patience, and doing things correctly the first time. The chapter will show you how.
OK, let’s get started. We’re now ready to start assembling the solar cells. This isn’t difficult but you do need to pay attention to details and do these correctly. Done incorrectly either the panels won’t work, or you’ll have diminished return on solar energy.
The parts you’ll need for completing this chapter are: (don’t worry, you don’t need to write this down. There’s a shopping list in the download for this chapter)
· Solar cells
· Tabbing wire
· Bus wire
· Rosin flux pen
· Staple gun
· Soldering iron
· Tile spacers
· Hand saw
· And a piece of cardboard at least 3 foot long.
1. Cut the cardboard long enough to hold 12 solar cells. So if your cells are 3” x 6” you would need a piece of cardboard 36” or 3 feet long. Add a couple of inches just to be safe.
2. Tip: if you’re unsure of how long to cut your template then measure the one solar cell and multiply that number by 12. This will give you the length in inches. If you’ve been following this tutorial, and bought solar cells 3x6” then they will fit perfectly in the frame you just built.
3. Once you completed cutting your cardboard to the right size, place a solar cell near the end of the template. Position the solar cell so that it is evenly facing the end of the template
4. Once the cell looks to be even with the template, take a pencil and trace around the solar cell. Be careful not to place any pressure on the cell itself. They break easy! You’ve been warned.
5. After you’ve traced the cell, remove it, then lay it next to your trace, leaving about ¼” inch between the cells and begin to trace around the cell in its new position. Rinse and repeat until you have all 12 solar cells traced on your template. It should look like this.
6. Next, take the tile spacers and place one of each side of the traced out solar cell within the ¼” inch space. Use the staple gun or stapler to pin the tile spacers in place.
Using the tile spacers will allow you to easily keep the cells aligned. As a result you’ll end up with a more professional looking solar panel.
Soldering the cells together.
7. After finishing the template, you can start soldering the solar cells together. Before you begin that part, for those you may not know, the TOP of most cells is the negative (-) side and the bottom is the positive (+) side.
8. You’ll be hooking these cells up in a series. A series connection is an electrical connection where the positive terminal of one device is attached to the negative terminal of the next in a series string
Hooking your solar cells up in this fashion will increase the voltage output of your solar panel, allowing you to successfully charge a 12 volt car battery if you needed to.
Solar Panel DIY: Tip #1: It’s a good idea when working with solar cells, or building Solar Panels DIY to wear some latex of vinyl gloves to prevent damaging your cells as well as burning yourself during the soldering process.
Solar Panel DIY: Tip # 2: If you bought “Pre-tabbed solar cells” you can skip the next step. I’m including this step for those that didn’t.
9. If your solar cells did not come pre-tabbed you’ll have to solder the tabbing wire on each individual solar cell first before assembling them.
a. Plug in your soldering iron so that it can warm up
b. Place 2 solar cells, one front of the other, on the template. Roll out enough tabbing wire where it is the length of 2 solar cells.
c. Cut the tabbing wire at that length.
d. Once you cut first strip, use it as a guide and cut several more pieces the same length.
e. Now you can begin soldering the tabbing wire on each individual cell.
10. Take 1 solar cell and look at the positive (Bottom) of the cell. The positive side usually has a number of small white squares.
11. Take 2 strips of tabbing wire lay them on each side of the cell. Take your rosen flux pen and add 1 layer of flux to each white square.
12. Take your tabbing wire and lay it across the cells vertically. Each column will receive it’s own strip of tabbing wire
13. Once you have the tabbing wire in place, simply solder the tabbing wire to the white squares.
14. Follow the same steps for the second column. It should now be looking like this
15. Rinse and repeat for all the solar cells. Do all the cells in advance before moving on to the next step.
16. You should now have 36 solar cells with tabbing wire on each.
17. Place 1 solar cell at the starting end of the template and another cell directly in front of it.
18. Take the tabbing wire first cell and place it ON TOP of the 2nd.
19. After positioning the tabbing wires from the first solar cell on top of the second cell, use the Rosen flux pen and apply one layer of flux on top of the two thick white lines on the second solar cell.
20. Next, take your soldering iron and begin to solder the tabbing wires down directly on top of the thick white lines of the second solar cell.
21. Rinse and repeat with one cell after another. The tabbing wire from the last cell goes on top of the cell which comes next.
a. Tip: It’s wise to use your digital multimeter to make sure you are producing the right amount of voltage after you solder each cell together. Take a look at the image below on how to properly check the voltage of two or more cells hooked up in a series.
22. So how do you know if your solar cells are putting out the correct voltage? Your supplier should be able to tell you and it is usually right on the product page or packaging.
For example, go to Amazon and search for “solar cells” You’ll get a page like this:
23. Scroll down to the products section of the web page and you should see something like product description:
Once you know how many volts your cell produces, it is very easy to figure out the rest. In this example, the solar cell pictured produces 0.5v. So 2 cells together ought to produce 1 volt.
A string of 12 cells should produce 6 volts. (12 x. 0.5)
A solar panel (3 strings) should produce 18 volts. (36 x 0.5)
24. Rinse and repeat until you have all 12 cells correctly bonded together. Once you finish a string of cells always check to make sure now how many volts you are producing. Better to fix an issue now than wait until the end.
25. After checking the output of the first string of cells, repeat the entire process and make 2 more strings of 12 solar cells connected in a series. Your finished string of solar cells should look like this
Solar Panel DIY: You should now have 12 solar cells bonded together in 3 separate strings. Take your time with this right and don’t rush it. Make sure to use the multimeter every step of the way. Do this correctly now and you’ll have a solar panel that will last for decades with minimal care of maintenance.
Solar Panel DIY: In the Next lesson we’ll be placing the solar cell strings in the frame.