Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Solar panels, on the cheap

Some time back, I wrote about how the solar energy market was in a state of flux. And I may have mentioned that I bought a kilowatt's worth of 6"x6" solar cells...  for $350.  That price is still pretty much the same.  I am embarrassed to admit that that post was made more than three years ago.

Eight cells to go...

Well fast-forward those three years to the present day. Being retired has given me the time to get some of the "must do" projects off the list, leaving time for the "fun to do" items. And the solar panels are one of these.

Since I am doing this on the cheap, the first problem was finding something to serve as a substrate.  Tempered glass is expensive, and aluminum extrusions are not cheap either.  But guess what?  Shower doors, made from tempered glass and already rimmed with aluminum  extrusions are free, or nearly so.  And a regular shower door is just the right size to hold 40 of the 6"x6" cells in a 4 x 10 matrix, creating a panel that will produce a nominal 8 amps at 22V...  175 watts!  Not bad, for a $60 investment (so far).

And I have enough cells to make 6 of these panels.  Tho they will be too big and heavy to be suitable for a boat, they will work nicely on the roof of my shop where they will feed grid-tie inverters, allowing me to sell the power they produce back to the grid.

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