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Make a high powered solar panel from broken solar cells
by mattfelice on March 13, 2008 Table of Contents intro: Make a high powered solar panel from broken solar cells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 1: Tools needed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 2: Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 3: Getting started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 4: Wiring the cells in series . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 5: You're Done . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Advertisements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 3 3 5 5 6 6 6

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

intro: Make a high powered solar panel from broken solar cells
In this instructable, I will give you a practical guide to building a large solar panel from broken solar cells.

Image Notes 1. 35 watt panel 38 1/2 volt cells wired in series. 19 volts 1.85 amps. 2. Hot glue gun 3. Stove

step 1: Tools needed
To start making solar panels from broken solar cells you need a few things. 1. 15-25 watt soldering iron 2. Light duty 60/40 electronics rosin core solder (radio shack $5.00 for a roll). You can use a silver solder, but I think its too expensive, and the difference in resistance is minimal. So I just use regular old electronics solder. 3. Multimeter 4. Pencil eraser 5. Solar tabbing pre tinned ribbing (ebay 100 feet is like $20 bucks) 6. A good flat sturdy working surface ( I use a piece of glass, but whatever you have will do)

Image Notes 1. 60/40 rosin light core solder 2. 25 watt soldering iron 3. A small batch of random polycrystalline solar cells

Image Notes 1. Solar tabbing 2. cell busbar tinned and ready for tabbing 3. Many burn marks in old table

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

step 2: Overview
First get some solar sells. Solar Cell Grab Bag Electronics goldmine Solar cellsEbay Thats just a few examples of where you can get solar cells, but it gives you a start. First lest discuss parallel and series wiring Parallel wiring increases amperage and voltage stays the same. Each cell in a parallel circuit is wired positive to positive and negative to negative. Series wiring (mostly what you will use for solar cells} increases voltage and amperage stay the same. Each cell in a series circuit is wired positive to negative, the remaining positive and negative are you leads. You'll notice batteries in flashlights installed in series. Now that you have your batch of solar cells we can get started! First separate the cells in approximate similar sizes. Remember if your wiring a group of cells together in series, the smallest cell in the circuit will dictate your panels amperage. Regardless of the size of your cells, each will produce about .5 volts. The bigger the cell typically the more ampreage you will get. So you wouldn't want five 6" cells with one 1" cell in series, because you would loose the amperage of the bigger cells and only output the amperage of the 1" cell. Basically try to keep the cells around the same size. Most solar cells ( poly and mono crystalline) the positive side is the back of the cell and the negative is the front of the cell.

step 3: Getting started
Now that you have your batch of solar cells you must determine if each cell has tabbing on the busbar. If if does continue to the next step. If your cell has no tabbing you must first use a pencil eraser to clean the surface of the busbar. Use a gentle hand as poly and monocrystalline cells are extremely fragile. Rubbing too hard will break the cell. Some of the dark spots on the busbar will hinder the solder from sticking so try to get these off. Don't go crazy if you can't, as long as a descent amount of solder sticks you are OK. The more you use the eraser the better. Next you must tin your soldering iron with a nice blob of solder, and wait a few seconds until it stops smoking(some of the rosin burns off), then run it down the busbar. Don't beat yourself if you can't get every spot to stick as long as you can get a few spots you're good. Now cut a piece of tabbing and use your soldering iron to melt the tabbing into the tinned busbar. Don't press down too hard let the soldering iron do the job. Thats why I suggest using a 25 watt minimum soldering iron so that you don't feel the need to press down on the cell so much. Now that you tinned and tabbed your first cell continue and do the rest. Now you must solder a lead to the back of the cell. Most polycrystalline cells have a dark area on the back, this is where you solder to. MonoCrystalline cells usually have small squares where you need to solder to. Just like before start by tinning your soldering iron with a good blob of solder and apply it to the underside of the cell directly under the busbar (makes it easier to line up the cells later). Then cut a small 1.5 inch of tabbing and melt it into the solder. now that you have your leads soldered to the cell you are ready to move on to the next step.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

Image Notes 1. no tabbing on busbar

Image Notes 1. Busbar, this is where you need to intall solar tabbing wire, but first use erasor to clean busbar.

Image Notes 1. Solar tabbing 2. cell busbar tinned and ready for tabbing 3. Many burn marks in old table

Image Notes 1. Done!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

step 4: Wiring the cells in series
Now we can start wiring the cells in series. Using the tab we soldered to the back of each cell will now be used to connect to the front of the next cell. Line them up and melt the tabbing from the underside tab on one cell to the top of the next cell. Keep doing this and you can get as many volts as you want. Remember if you don't plan on using a charge controller you will need to install a reverse flow diode on the positive side to prevent the batteries from draining during the night. You can get them at radioshack, or ebay or where ever you choose. Thats basically all there is to it. Then all you have to do is make an enclosure of your liking, seal it all up and you have yourself a solar panel. I used a piece of painted plywood some pine peices for a frame and a piece of plexyglass all sealed together with silicone.

Image Notes 1. Positioned and ready to be soldered together

Image Notes 1. soldered together in series (top - to bottom +)

step 5: You're Done
Put that bad boy in the sun and have pride when you tell people you made it yourself for pennies on the dollar.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

Image Notes 1. 35 watt panel 38 1/2 volt cells wired in series. 19 volts 1.85 amps. 2. Hot glue gun 3. Stove

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Comments
44 comments Add Comment

Angus06 says:

Sep 21, 2008. 10:05 AM REPLY Yeah going along with what blindsided said, how is it that you wired those all in series and managed a whopping 1.85A out of that?

mattfelice says:

May 20, 2009. 12:52 PM REPLY to gain the amperage you want just wire a few in parallel to make a "single cell, then continue the series. You can see examples of this on my panel

bomberss27 says:

Oct 7, 2008. 6:06 PM REPLY What are the dimensions of the entire solar panel? Also, how do you attach this to a charge controller or alligator clips which I could use to attach to a battery?

mattfelice says:
its about 4' long by 15" wide

May 20, 2009. 12:49 PM REPLY

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

Jalloy says:
very nice instructable. would you mind if I added it to the Do it yourself solar section at http://www.solarpaneltalk.com

May 17, 2009. 9:10 PM REPLY

mattfelice says:
please do

May 20, 2009. 12:47 PM REPLY

PondPlantGirl says:
I am looking at running a 1,000 watt heater. How many watts will this operate?

Nov 21, 2008. 10:02 PM REPLY

geetz says:

Dec 17, 2008. 12:03 PM REPLY A kilowatt solar array would require (approximately) 100 square feet of solid collectors. It would only deliver its kilowatt when the unimpeded sun was shining directly straight on to the array. I'm guessing the pictured array delivers 10-15 Watts.

mattfelice says:
19v 1.85 amps 35 watts in partial sun

May 20, 2009. 12:45 PM REPLY

jerber26 says:
hi, can you connect those broken pieces together so that it will look like one whole solar panel?

Jan 17, 2009. 5:43 AM REPLY

mattfelice says:
you could but it would be realy hard

May 20, 2009. 12:44 PM REPLY

cheesphht says:

May 19, 2009. 6:44 AM REPLY The hardest thing for me to build is the protective encapsulator. Do you build it out of glass or poly? and how was it put together? Or just direct me to the site where instructions to build such an enclosure is available. I want it strong enough to sustain winds but also light enough to put on by telescope's tracking device during the day.

mattfelice says:
i just made a simple wood frame painted, caulked, with a plexi top

May 20, 2009. 12:43 PM REPLY

nowuknowjack says:

May 17, 2009. 10:32 PM REPLY Here is a place to get solar cells if not free, then real cheap!!! As you travel down the road you will see solar powered highway warning signs used by various road and utility departments. These signs are subject to a lot of abuse...especially drunk drivers...and the solar panels get damaged. What happens to these solar panels??? The insurance company pays for the repairs and the broken panels go IN THE TRASH!!! These signs have phone numbers and contact information on them so WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO...stop and jot these numbers down. Also look in the phone book for places that rent these signs for special events and ASK if there are any broken panels, and that you are doing a science project. If it is for educational purposes, many businesses will gladly give you damaged, seconds or old stock items in order to help young budding scientists. I have been given windows, glass patio doors, corrugated drain pipe...even a piano all in the name of science!

alxjpow says:
Cool, we broke one at work.. so I might get a solar panel for free! (after doing this though of course) ;) Thanks~!

Apr 24, 2009. 6:57 PM REPLY

GorillazMiko says:
Wow, that looks kind of hard, and looks like you have to be concentrating a lot not to mess up. Nice job!

Mar 14, 2008. 5:28 PM REPLY

mattfelice says:
Yeah, what makes it hard is how thin and fragile the cells are. The first batch I got, I couldn't believe how thin they were.

Mar 14, 2008. 6:23 PM REPLY

Mike060187 says:
hey, so the top of the cells are negative and the bottom is positive? ive seen a few being constructed and the engineer always just soldered the top two ribbons and nothing underneath. am i seeing things right? also great project, im trying to do the same but i can't believe how thin theses are.

Apr 16, 2009. 9:03 AM REPLY

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

im trying to connect about 40 of theses in series but its hard to know what the best steps are to make them into one huge panel. aslo which is the best way to arrange them, parrallel or in series? thanks, Mike

Brumario says:
Hi. how many watts this solar panel produce? How many solar cells do I need to produce 60 watts or 100?

Apr 12, 2009. 10:08 AM REPLY

James Moxham says:

Mar 15, 2008. 4:39 AM REPLY I have built a few of these - one problem can be the solder refusing to wet and the solution is to dip the solder in some solder flux (zinc chloride) then put the drop at the end of the solder on the busbar, wait 10 seconds and then solder. Broken solar cells are much cheaper than whole ones and work just as well! Nice Instructable :)

t2rocku says:
Do you have any good sites where I can buy chipped/cracked solar cells??? Any where but EBAY ????

Oct 26, 2008. 2:48 PM REPLY

ElectricMan1 says:
Try Silicon solar.

Mar 30, 2009. 4:37 PM REPLY

vedant says:

Jun 19, 2008. 7:15 AM REPLY lsn i cant spend much not more then 2-3 hundred rupees ,so plzzz tell wat all i need & how should i make a solar panel ,thank you.

ElectricMan1 says:
You can get broken solar cells for really cheap. You just need to know how to solder.

Mar 30, 2009. 4:34 PM REPLY

cumpi says:

Mar 15, 2009. 6:08 AM REPLY Hello, I am living in Hungary but I also don't have much money and I have a farm house too far from populated area to get electricity and water. I want to turn this farm into a sustainable community. But to do it I need knowledge. I 'd also like to build electricity from broken panels, could we keep in touch and help each other with informations about sustainable science infos? Regards, Gergo Tolnai, Cumpi

wupme says:
Thats actually a great idea. In fact, as far as i know, small solar cells, are sometimes just broken bigger cells cut into shape. But i got no place to "place" something like that :(

Oct 14, 2008. 1:43 PM REPLY

Ausi319 says:
where can you get them within like a few days? http://www.discovercircuits.com/H-Corner/brokensp.htm like that site. But not E-bay i don't like that...

Oct 14, 2008. 12:56 PM REPLY

brainstormer says:
I am new to this stuff. so I'm not being sceptical, but I am wondering how you use this if one does not have an inverter.

Jun 15, 2008. 9:38 PM REPLY

killersquirel11 says:
If you use it to charge a battery or other DC powered device, no inverter is necessary.

Sep 16, 2008. 6:50 PM REPLY

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

martian742 says:

Jul 23, 2008. 3:21 PM REPLY I think many of the 15.4 inch notebooks use 19 or 20 V charger. So it could be probably used to charge/power one of those. I would recommend some voltage stabilisation.

johnsocm says:

May 19, 2009. 1:33 PM REPLY Yes, this is the voltage that a 15.4 inch notebook would use normally, but you have to remember the current on the chargers as well. Most of them are in the excess of over 65watts. This solar panel would only be able to produce around a 10 to 12 watt max power. So yes it could probably charge a laptop but after a day or so of direct sunlight. It could never power a laptop unless it is big enough for a 65 watt which would be a very big solar panel.

mattfelice says:
is a full 35 watts, not 10 to 12

May 20, 2009. 12:41 PM REPLY

blindsided says:

Aug 5, 2008. 8:01 PM REPLY I see that you have found very large high current cells. Where did you find them? All I've found are weak cells and it would take three to four times as many cells to make a 35 watt panel.

bgugi says:

Mar 15, 2008. 10:50 AM REPLY if i understand you correctly, you are saying that the amperage of a series of these cells can be shot to hell by using a small cell? would it be possible to wire them all in parrallel then use some kind of step-up transformer to bring it up to 12 volts to charge somthing like a battery? the other thing is: would it be possible to build or modify a computer ups to use two batteries - with usage priority batter<ac<battery (one for backup, one used whenever charged)? what i am trying to say is something like: 1. you plug in the device. 2. it charges the first battery from a.c. (wall) 3. you plug your computer in. 4. it powers the computer off of a.c., reverting to that battery when a.c. goes out (traditional ups so far) 5. the second battery charges from this solar panel. 6. the ups notices that the battery is over x% full, and switches from a.c. usage to the "solar" battery, 7 once "solar" battery drops below y% of capacity, return to a.c. power. return to 5, rinse and repeat would help becoming "green", hardcore computers can use over 10 times the power a single lightbulb does

ZeroTruths says:

Apr 8, 2008. 7:27 PM REPLY First off... When using a transformer, whether it be step-up or step-down, you should realize that Power can not simply be created. If you increase Voltage, your Current will decrease and vice-versa. With enough power coming from the solar cells, you could quite easily create a charging circuit. However, keep in mind that if the battery receives too much current (or voltage, I think), you put the battery in the dangerous position of bursting. Tho, when working with solar cells, and excess of power is hardly something to worry about, simply due to their nature. As for your second question... What I'm getting from our second question is that you want to add a charging circuit, incorporating the solar panels as the second circuit, and have the UPS sense when the battery is charged to a certain %, switch from AC to battery until battery level drops to a certain %, and continuously repeat. It's not a bad idea, and it's a feasible one, to a certain extent. First off, you should realize that most high end gaming computers love sucking down energy, and as such, I don't think switching from AC to Battery for exclusive use is such a good idea. The way I imagine it, once the modified UPS reached the given %, the switch would occur, and the computer would use the battery for a maximum of 10, 15, maybe 30 minutes. Now, unless said solar panel was quite large, and given the weather presented favorable conditions, then things would be different. But, you merely asked if the idea was feasible, and the answer is yes, it is. There is still one thing that I'd be worried about. Computers might not appreciate the constant switching of power sources, but then again, I've never had to use a backup battery, let alone, own a UPS. Just something to keep in mind.

bgugi says:

Apr 9, 2008. 8:37 PM REPLY yeah, but that is thirty minutes 10, 15, maybe 30 minutes that electricity is not being pulled from the grid, (the first stats i found from the magic google machine said) every kilowatt hour produces about a pound of co2. the battery need not be an exclusive source, it is really just a buffer for the solar power, to make it useable. as far as power switching, ups's are just that - they switch seamlessly from ac to battery when ac dies.

mattfelice says:
your idea sounds great, but unfortunately its way over my head

Mar 26, 2008. 1:06 PM REPLY

thearchitect says:

Mar 21, 2008. 2:14 AM REPLY Wow I didn't know that there was something sold for tabbing these solar cells. I've been thinking of the same project but with all complications of using a conductive marker and some sort of conductive glue to create the bus ribs. Can you apply those "solar tabbing pre tinned ribbing" on cells with no ribs at all? I mean, consider that you have a piece broken in such a bad pattern that you have bus rib passing through half of it. Can you add a second rib? Thanks for this very nice instructable.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/

Koray

mattfelice says:

Mar 21, 2008. 9:07 AM REPLY If their is even a small busbar to solder the tabbing to, thats all you need. It does not have to go across the whole cell (not going across the whole cell will increase resistance but in such a small amount that it's not worth worrying about). Also for cells with no busbar I use conductive copper tape, you can get it on ebay and it works great, and it can easily be soldered to.

zachninme says:
Wow, that's easy: thanks! How do you know positive from negative?

Mar 14, 2008. 12:58 PM REPLY

mattfelice says:
With all mono and poly crystalline cells the bottom is positive and the top is negative. Or you could just use a multimeter.

Mar 14, 2008. 1:34 PM REPLY

zachninme says:
But, how do you tell bottom from top wo/ a multimeter?

Mar 14, 2008. 2:30 PM REPLY

mattfelice says:
When I say bottom I mean underneath or the back, the grey side, sorry about that

Mar 14, 2008. 3:02 PM REPLY

bigdav37 says:
How many volts to amps can you expect from such an arrangement thanks Dave'

Mar 15, 2008. 9:18 AM REPLY

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-high-powered-solar-panel-from-broken-solar-/


				
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Description: In this instructable, I will give you a practical guide to building a large solar panel from broken solar cells.