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Hardware Hacking Power Build

Building Your Own Solar Panel In the Garage 235

Posted by timothy
from the prices-have-edge-cases-too dept.
jeroen8 writes "A Dutch guy was able to build his own solar panel in his garage using materials that were a third as expensive as the mass produced solar panels currently available on the European market. He bought his solar cells on eBay and used them to create his own panel. His output price is only 1.20 Euro per Watt Peak (Wp). This makes you wonder if we are paying too much for mass-produced solar panels, which should, in theory, be a lot less expensive than something you create in your garage."
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Building Your Own Solar Panel In the Garage

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  • by gravos (912628) on Friday March 20, 2009 @02:43AM (#27265501) Homepage
    Somewhat like battery capacity decay (although generally not as severe), the output of solar cells declines as they age. So that's another reason old used cells are cheaper.
  • by bugnuts (94678) on Friday March 20, 2009 @03:07AM (#27265587) Journal

    I would've built it outside, but to each his own.

    They're solar panels. Outside means you're soldering a live circuit.

    This is actually a potential hazard for installers when putting in certain PV panels which produce high voltage (~90vdc).

  • Next step, business (Score:1, Interesting)

    by MikeOtl67of (1503531) on Friday March 20, 2009 @03:41AM (#27265703) Homepage
    This guy now has got a big opportunity. To start his own line of not expensive solar panels. I would buy one straight away.
  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Friday March 20, 2009 @03:52AM (#27265729) Homepage
    for most people, im not sure that is the tricky bit, nor sticking it between some glass. I, and id suggest a fair few other people would stumble at figureing out how to connect this pannel to the grid in my home to make use of the electricity it generates. Would anyone be able to shed any light on this end of things?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 20, 2009 @04:31AM (#27265865)
    I hooked my 65w Unisolar flexible panel to a sealed cell 12v battery without a diode and placed it in the sun. The solar panel heated up and caught fire in various places.
  • by montyzooooma (853414) on Friday March 20, 2009 @07:57AM (#27266611)
    I saw a lot about wanting to have 20 or 25 years warranty on the panels you buy and that's quite sensible. But aren't we all just better off waiting 5 years, or ten years and paying the same amount of money for 10 times the power production, thereby in the long run generating far more energy from solar and ultimately reducing our carbon footprint by a greater amount despite starting later.

    Worrying about a 25 year warranty seems a bit daft when in a few years we can expect a panel a fraction of the size to produce the same wattage or a panel the same size to produce far more power. People who're doing this now, laudable though it is, are dabblers and trail-blazers.

  • by Sandbags (964742) on Friday March 20, 2009 @08:01AM (#27266635) Journal

    I can't think of too many things I CAN'T assemble in my garrage for significantly cheaper than buying a complete unit. Computers, car repair, kitchen cabinets, pretty much anything that can be purchased as a set of parts is cheaper than buying an assembled unit. Why?

    - No labor included in price
    - No warranty included in price
    - Individual parts sold seperately are usually overstock or minor "defects"
    - Many parts sold online are parts no longer actively being produced
    - Assembled systems are stoced only for sale, parts are stocked for multiple reasons, meaning more efficient warehousing...
    - typically, no middle man. the vendor you buy a widget from is usually the 3rd or 4th company in line, parts can be acquired direct or through a flooring company, eliminating at least 1 tier of markup.

    Now, that said, it's obvious that some parts, especially commonly replaced wear parts, are highly profitable. Some items actually cost more to build from parts. In the case of solar panels, a lot of the components aside from the cells are very common items that can be found for deep discounts. (Wires, boarder metal, backing, etc). If the cells are readily availible, it;s not terribly complicated to assemble.

    What I'd like to see is:
    1: How does his home made panel compare to one manufactured with the same cells
    2: How many more cells/panels did he need to get full coverage (100% aggregate 24 hour power) vs professional panels, and does a typical roof have enough room to handle that?
    2: Over 15-20 years, what will he expect in maintanance and repair costs that would normally have been warantied
    3: Over 20 years, what's the actual difference in cost (factoring in comparative performance)
    4: What tax valuation was he granted and how much did his home value increase due the adding home made panels vs produced panels?
    5: How many house did he put into this?
    6: was he able to roll the cost under a mortgage of equity loan like I could do with a local reseller?

    Just saving the cash up front, even if you considder the labor a non-issue (or even rewarding), does not mean this is a good idea. It actually has to show 20 year savings as well. He may have saved on the panel cost, but he can't save on the electrical panels, the inverters, and the other components required to make solar panels actually work. I'd like to know how that factored into his cost. Did he also hire an electrician or has he a certified electrical contractor that could wire his own house (most of us are NOT, and would incurr substantial installation fees).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 20, 2009 @02:39PM (#27271727)

    Windmills outperform solar cells at night.

  • Re:Once again... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday March 20, 2009 @03:00PM (#27272149) Homepage

    I went oversize. a pair of Cotec 1500's and a smaller 300 for just the lighting and smaller loads I'm going to upgrade by adding 2 more of the kits and a seconds bank of batteries. also upgrade the lighting to 12V CFL to increase efficiency. you dont want a single monster as you will have a 50% efficency drop if you run a 40W load on a 3000 watt inverter, you will actually use 80-90 watts of power like that. you need to be at the 50% or higher for an inverter.

    I have a huge Xantrex charger capable of 500 watts of panels. I dont plan on going over that as the power use in the garage is intermittent and I can have 2 weeks of charging between large load use. 3X a day garage door opening and me dinking in the garage as well as the car trickle chargers on the 2 bikes and 1 sportscar leave me at 99.5% charge status with my array on the roof.

    Biggest PITA. cleaning snow off and rinsing them weekly.

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