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Manufacture your own solar panels. . .from scratch

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Posted by Gresford on October 12, 2005, 11:19 am
Can anyone tell me what it would take to make your own solar panels?
When I say that I mean soldering the cells to create your own solar
energy matrix.  Are there any resources (web, good books)? Is this
cheaper than buying from a retailer? Or am I out of my mind?


Gresford Thomas

Posted by Christian Kaiser on October 12, 2005, 12:55 pm
Of course it's possible.

Problems are:
- it may be cheaper or not, that depends how much your time is worth
- you may need to either make the panels larger than commercial ones, or get
special solar materials (optimal absorption in the visible range, minimal in
infrared, special glass, ...), which are expensive
- the connection of the absorber with the pipes is critical, but not easy to

- you can make forms as you wish, even fill a triangular shape below the
roof rim, etc

I have a book of a firm that sells (or at least did sell in 199x) pipes
connected with absorbers, that you can solder together in shapes as you

I would suggest
- either get ready-made collectors, or at least
- get the aborbers/pipes pre-manufactured

If you have a lot of space, you can find cheaper methods to build it all
yourself, but it will take some time to find optimal parts.


Posted by Steve Spence on October 12, 2005, 1:06 pm
 Gresford wrote:



Steve Spence
Dir., Green Trust, http://www.green-trust.org
Contributing Editor, http://www.off-grid.net

Posted by R.H. Allen on October 12, 2005, 1:49 pm
 Gresford wrote:

Sure it's possible, but I would recommend it only as an educational
exercise because you're not going to do it cheaper. For starters,
manufacturers buy the parts and materials needed in far larger
quantities than you would and get much better prices as a result. In
addition, some of the materials you would need -- assuming you're
looking to make a panel that will produce as much energy and last as
long in the field as one that you purchase from a dealer -- are
difficult to find.

For example, household window glass won't cut it, but you're not going
to find the high-transparency stuff used in PV panels at your local
glass dealer. You will have similar trouble finding a suitable silicone
with which to encapsulate the cells under the glass -- the stuff you'll
find at the hardware store won't be as transparent and will likely have
a higher acid content, which will be detrimental to your electrical
connections. It will probably also turn brown when exposed to UV light.

Even if you do find the right materials, you will need to assemble them
just as well as they would have at the factory if you want them to last
as long in the field as factory-made panels. That is a *very* difficult
task that will require a number of false starts (and, therefore, wasted
money) before you get it right.

Finally, let's say you'd be happy with a lower-quality panel that won't
last as long in the field as a factory-made one as long as you can save
a few bucks. The solar cells alone will probably cost you at least 65%
of what a finished panel would, so even if you get the other materials
for free and value your own labor at zero, you would still need the
panel to last 20 years just to break even -- and that's assuming you use
the right materials to get maximum power output. If you use ordinary
window glass, say, then you'd likely need the panel to last 25 or 30
years to get electricity at the same cost as a factory-made panel --
about the same life you would expect from a factory-made panel.

Posted by Christian Kaiser on October 12, 2005, 3:15 pm
 Are we talking PV or DHW panels?


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