Building solar panels from loose cells

how much of a hassle is it to build a solar panel from loose cells. i am looking into buying a couple of piles of brand new cells (Siemens powermax 0.55V, 5amps) and assembling some panels to meet a couple of different needs.

Have any of you done this? I have all the tools I need, i have some clean glass, I have wire and stuff, i can solder.

eh, it seems pretty easy! this no doubt means that it is incredibly hard and i will never be able to do it.

Comments

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    Also, does anyone know if Gallium Arsenide cells are better than Monocrystalline cells like the Powermax cells by Siemens? I am not space-limited, but if Gallium Arsenide cells last a lot longer or have better performance under hot or low-light conditions, then maybe it would be worth it to look for those instead.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    as to the difference between those cell types, i couldn't outright say. you could probably determine that on your own looking at the individual spec sheets for them.
    now in the case of a pv being made from scratch, that isn't quite as easy as you may think. the glass is a special lead free glass to allow more light to pass through. there's also something placed between the glass and the cells, though it is very thin, to keep condensation from forming on the glass on the inside and it is adhesive like. you may want to research how pvs are made and then decide if it is worth it for you to try this on your own. unless the cells are extremely cheap i doubt it will be cheaper for the whole assembly than those that are factory made. also note that impurities from the surroundings are kept to a minimum and it often looks similar to an operating room complete with the masks, gloves, and gowns on the workers.
  • JamesJames Posts: 242Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    I agree with Niel,
    I have been crunching the numbers on this issue for a couple years. My goal is focused on about a 90-100 watt panel. Every time I see a deal on cells, i try the math once again. If you want to put a panel together for fun and learning, by all means go ahead. Yes you can make a panel for less the retail pricing. But please remember that most surplus cells available to us regular folks are usually only rated about 1.5 - 2 amps or so. I'm starting to see may cells for sale on ebay and from several surplus electronic suppliers, but again, most cell are lower rated.

    I have quite a bit of aluminum and glass in my shop, drops from commercial work. Even with using that material, I just couldn't get close to an apples to apples comparable size panel for much less money.

    Again on ebay, they are also serveral sellers listing the tedlar and eva encapsulating products. These are good products to use, but drive up the cost of a home built panel.

    If anyone can steer me in the direction of some high output cells at a competitive cost, I would be very interested. I do want to make some panels myself, but considering the output ratings and warranties offered by the big guys, I just can't see it worthwhile right now.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 24,560Super Moderators admin
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    The Discover Channel show "How It's Made" shows hand assembling a 36 cell module...

    Via YouTube...

    1 panel per hour, 6 panels per day... Usually most of these shows seem to be shot in Canada, so I assume that this is a low production/high cost shop using imported components or a university hand built component test setup (different cells and materials for testing?)...

    And here is a Chinese (I think) "robot" for automated soldering of a "bank" of cells...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    interesting video. I wonder why they didn't show how the wire grid is applied to the singular silicon wafers where the energy is collected and concentrated into usable power.

    Merry Christmas

    Bad Apple
  • BB.BB. Posts: 24,560Super Moderators admin
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    I believe the "surface metal" is done at the factory where the cell is made

    Here is a corporate video from Q Cell that has some background shots of their manufacturing line... Don't expect much real information from this video--it is almost content free in terms of how the cells are actually made (the video is a corporate sales/info package).

    If you want to see how Nano Solar makes their "printed" cell, here are a few links:

    CNN, KQED, CNBC

    And, here is a video of a solar thermal power plant 1/2 constructed (went online June of 2007)... 400 acres and 64 MWatt peak... Uses hot oil to drive a steam turbine designed and built by an Israeli company.

    The largest solar electric plant (also thermal/steam type) in the world is still the one in Southern California--~1,000-1,600 acres and 354 MW...

    -Bill

    PS; Should add that that Nano Solar video links do not show any assembled panels--or even apparently "raw cells" producing electricity... Just "printing" of "ink" on metal rolls (from what I saw)...
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • H2SO4_guyH2SO4_guy Posts: 207Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    The Uni-solar panels are SUPPOSED to operate better in low light situations, but Niel has not had the best of luck with them. I have looked for posts from Niel about these, but can't seem to find any. Would you mind chiming in again as to the 64 watt Uni-solar panels again Niel?

    I have a couple of the Uni-Solar 64's new in the box that have never been out in the sun, but didn't know if it would better to sell them and get something else, or get more of them. I liked how they are supposed to work in lower light conditions, and have no glass. The deal on the sunelec modules that are seconds seems to be a great deal at about $3.24 per watt.

    Niel, your insight please, as you have been using these for quite awhile. I appreciate everyones help.

    Skip in Kansas City, Missouri
    12K asst panels charging through Midnite Classic 150's, powering Exeltechs and Outback VFX-3648 inverter at 12 and 48 volts.  2080 AH @ 48 VDC of Panasonic Stationary batteries (2 strings of 1040 AH each) purchased for slightly over scrap, installed August 2013.  Outback PSX-240X for 220 volt duties.  No genny usage since 2014. 
  • BB.BB. Posts: 24,560Super Moderators admin
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    There has been discussion of ASI type panels in general on another website (Solar Guppy's)... Question of long term reliability due to ASI and questions about appropriate mechanical strain relief for some Uni-Solar brand panels.

    Wind-Sun does sell Uni-Solar and they (Wind-Sun) seem to stand behind their vendors that have worked out for them pretty well...

    My two cents worth, if you need light weight and/or vandal/shock resistant panels--they are probably worth it... If you have a long term need and no issues with rocks on glass panels, standard glass mono/poly-crystalline silicon panels will probably last longer for you.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • n3qikn3qik Posts: 741Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    I have 7 Uni-Solar 62 watt panels. On cloudy/raining days last week I will got 300-400 watts total power a day. As you can see from a pic on my website, the panels are facing SW and at tilt of about 35 deg. I do not have any SI panels to compare this to.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Building solar panels from loose cells

    my unisolar 64s do ok, but as far as efficiency goes the other types are better. as mentioned about bad areas with the possibility of rocks and such being hurled at them, these are the better choice. i did see an indication that at least 1 such rock was thrown at my pvs. no damages that i've seen and they are still producing. if limited space is an issue, you may wish to use the other more efficient types as amorphous pvs take up to 2x the space to produce the same power.
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