Solar energy is an idea that has been around for quite some time now, finding the most practical application in domestic requirements such as heating water or the house. Conventional sources of electricity generation have a huge environmental impact since the process is dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, or oil which is imported at very high cost, or building dams and reservoirs to harness water for hydroelectric power generation, requiring massive amounts of funding and infrastructure and causing great inconvenience to the people living in such areas.
Solar energy, on the other hand, does not need too much investment in terms of resources, sunlight is free and it is very practical and simple to capture enough sunlight throughout the year to generate energy. Follow the simple steps listed below to learn how to make solar panels, which will help in capturing sunlight and turn it into heat and energy. The initial cost of going "totally solar" is a little steep, but in the long run, you will be able to recoup your investment and save more money than what you actually spent! There are two ways in which you can start off the process of making your own solar panel; one is to buy a starter solar kit which comes with the necessary equipment and a detailed instruction manual on how to set it up. The second method is to use materials easily available around your home or in the local hardware store, but the amount of energy you can generate is very little, which means that you will need huge quantities of these materials.
I think a kit is your best option. In my opinion, the easiest way to solar power your home - and harness wind power as well - is to use the Earth4Energy kit. Along with this kit, you get excellent video instructions that make the process so much smoother. Check it out - save the earth!
Types of solar panels. There are mainly two types of solar panels, one converts solar energy into heat (for example solar water heaters); the other converts the energy into electricity. This second type comes attached with photovoltaic panels and is installed over the roof to directly trap sunlight and the energy created by the panels is fed into a battery for storage. The battery is used to supply electricity to the house and all electrical appliances within.
Setting-up with a solar panel kit. When you buy a DIY solar panel kit, it comes equipped with all the parts and material required for making the solar panel along with detailed step-by-step instructions. The equipment provided in a kit will include solar cells, soldering iron, solder, tabbing and flux.
Making a solar panel on your own. In the second method for making a solar panel, you will use common items found around the house, though some material will need to be procured from the local hardware store.
- Electric stove or hotplate (1100 watts minimum)
- A micro-ammeter
- 2-3 tablespoons of table salt
- Sheet metal shears
- ½ foot square sheet of copper flashing
- Electric drill
- Sand paper
- A 2-liter plastic or glass bottle (jar with a wide mouth will also work)
- 2 alligator clip leads
- Protective goggles
Cutting the copper sheet. Cut a square or rectangular piece from the copper sheet using metal shears. The size of this sheet should match with the size of the burner or hotplate. Make sure this piece is completely clean and free of any corrosion. Use the sandpaper to scrub across both surfaces to clear off any residue adhering to the sheet.
Heating the copper. Place the cut-out copper piece on the electric stove or hotplate and turn it on. Heat the sheet for as long as it takes to develop a thick black layer of cupric oxide over the entire plate. With an 1100 watt burner, this process will take at least 45 minutes to an hour for the cupric oxide to coat the full plate.
Cool the copper plate. Once the black layer is thickly coated all over the plate, switch the burner off and allow the plate to cool slowly. As it cools, the black oxide will begin to flake off and fall, revealing a red layer of cuprous oxide. Once most of the black oxide material has fallen off, gently clean the copper plate under running water to remove all traces of the black layer, but without scrubbing off the red layer of cuprous oxide. The cuprous oxide formed during the burning process is an important component is making your solar panel.
Placing copper plates. For this you will need a glass or plastic jar with a wide mouth or you can use a plastic bottle with the top part - the narrow neck - cut-off. Cut another copper plate in the same size as the first one and place both the plates inside the bottle. Make sure the plates are not touching each other and fit properly along the inside contours of the jar or bottle. Attach them to the inner wall of the bottle using alligator clips.
Connecting the micro-ammeter. Take the lead of the alligator clip which is attached to the clean copper plate (the second plate) and connect it to the positive terminal of the ammeter. Repeat with the second lead attached to the cuprous oxide plate getting connected to the negative terminal.
Setting up the apparatus to catch the sun. Dissolve the salt in hot water to make a salt solution enough to cover the bottom of the copper plates inside the bottle, without wetting the alligator clips. Move the entire apparatus out and place it where it can catch the sunlight. Once sufficient energy has been captured, the micro-ammeter will register movements to indicate how much current has been created with the panel.
Start using solar power to work small appliances and machines and gradually switch over to using this clean energy to fulfill all your electricity and power needs. As mentioned before, the upfront investment required is big, but you can recoup this in the longer run, it will cut down the amount of money you spend on utilities such as gas and electricity, and you can also avail of the 30 percent tax credit which the government offers to those who switch over to solar energy.