DIY Solar Panel Build – Part 3 of 4

Part 3 – Installing the Solar Cells in the Panel Frame

Step 9 - Marking the frame for solar cell placement

To get the solar cell strings nicely aligned in the frame I drew an outline of where the strings were to be placed in each half of the frame.

Solar Panel Cell LocationCorrectly positioned, the cell arrays would have ¾ inch clearance around the frame edge where I could make all of my bus connections and route connecting wires.

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Step 10 - Gluing the solar cells to frame

Gluing Solar CellsI took my first string of cells and flipped them so the backs were facing upwards. I then added a blob of silicone on to the center of each cell. Grabbing the end tabs, I picked up the string, carried it over to the frame and placed it in the lower right corner with the positive tab wire (coming from the back of the end cell) pointing toward the bottom of the frame. With gentle pressure (so as not to fracture the cells) I slid the cells into position and squished the silicone a little to ensure good contact with the frame.

Solar Cell String OrientationI repeated the process with strings 2 to 6 paying particular attention to which direction the positive wires pointed.

Because I had handled the cells a little more aggressively during the gluing process I retested each string to ensure they were still working then let the silicone cure for 24 hours before continuing.

Glued Solar Cell StringsHere is the panel with the solar cells glued in place. It's starting to take shape. Notice the tab wires hanging from the end of the strings. I was now ready to attach the bus wires.

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Step 11 - Adding the bus wires

Bus Wire LayoutThe bus wire that came with my cells was .008 inches thick by .197 inches wide. This is the stuff to use to make the connections between each cell strip and the lead in wires. I cut 4 strips to 9 1/2 inches and 4 more strips to 4 inches in length. The long strips are used to connect adjacent cell strings that reverse direction and the short strips are used to connect the two tab wires at the end of each 18 cell string.

Position Long Bus
Position Short Bus Wire

I placed small dabs of caulk on the frame where the bus wires were to sit then positioned the wires on the caulk and pressed them into position allowing caulk to extrude a little but not too much so sufficient caulk remained to hold the wire in place. Once in position I removed the extruded caulk from around the wires and left the caulk to cure overnight.

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Step 12 - Soldering the tab wires to bus wires

Solder Tab Wires To Bus WireI trimmed the free tab wires so that the ends spanned the width of the bus wires but no more. I then applied flux to each bus wire and soldered all the tab wires.

Bridge Solar Cell StringsTo connect each half of the panel I cut a short length of 12 gage black wire and stripped and tinned the ends. I passed the wire through a hole in the frame divider and soldered the ends to the bus wires to make the final connection of all 36 cells. To check my bus wire connections I tested the entire string and got a healthy 19V plus in full sunlight.

 

For the best guide on how to build a solar panel with really great videos, plus a complete list of where to buy solar cells and all the tools required Click Here. Super homemade wind turbine plans included too.

Part 4 - Solar Panel Electrical Connections, Junction Box, Schottky Diode and Testing

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