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Building Your Own Solar Panel In the Garage

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the prices-have-edge-cases-too dept.

Hardware Hacking 235

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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235 comments

Are these _new_ panels? (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265393)

If they aren't brand new the reason why it's cheaper is because someone else has paid for much of it.

Re:Are these _new_ panels? (0, Redundant)

slazar (527381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265591)

Who said they weren't brand new? It looks like factory rejects to me.

Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265629)

I am fairly (95%) certain that these Cells have been stolen, probably by a person working at a solar cell manufacturing plant.
Getting an 'uncounted' batch of 'mixed quality' just screams 'stolen'.. and then the price itself is also cheaper then the raw manufacturing

But they are 'new', extracting Cells from used panels is not cost effective as commercial panels are laminated and string soldered which is very hard to take apart without breaking most of the cells.

Also, when you buy good quality Solar Panels you usually get around 25 years of warranty and the knowledge that they have been throughly safety tested (and designed) so that they won't burn down your house when one cell short circuits or your getting a bit more sun then imagined. I would think that's worth something by itself.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (3, Informative)

i'm lost (1247580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265647)

Screwed up moderating, posting to fix.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266255)

post as AC next time. it'll remove your modding and won't open you up to overzealous moderators, discouraging proper moderation.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266273)

Mod parent up, he was just trying to correct his moderating ffs, look at that as something positive instead of punishing him with an offtopic-mod (though yes, I can see some purpose with punishing for a bad mod but then again Slashdots AJAX crap autosubmit your mod ...)

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265683)

"burn down your house when one cell short circuits or your getting a bit more sun then imagined"

What? I challenge you to document s SINGLE case of a solar cell catching fire, let alone burning down someone's house.
Seriously. your scare tactics mark you as an industry shill.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266317)

Yes and i can easily say that i bred a Pig and a Horse and out came a Giraffasaurus Rex, but you don't see people believing me.

Documented proof: video, pictures, text isn't enough.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (3, Informative)

interested pyro (1499899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266643)

remember, red goes to positive, black goes to negative.....

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (2, Insightful)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265913)

Anything that generates a fair amount of power is a potential fire risk without well designed and maintained circuits. A bad bit of soldering will cause sparking, uneven power generation between cells risks current reversal (which capacitors and batteries love) without well thought out circuit design.

There are many ways a bad solar panel setup could start a fire, especially if you're dealing with potentially damaged cells that have been removed by someone who knows little about circuitry.

Your 'label critisism as being evil big oil person' tactics mark you as an idiot.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266491)

You are talking crap. Instead of embarrassing yourself further, why don't you stop spouting rubbish and spend 60 seconds looking up what voltage solar panels actually generate, then consider what p.d. you need to get these scary sparks you are fabricating.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266519)

That was my thoughts exactly, he/she got modded insightful for wank.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (0, Flamebait)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267001)

If you've a bad solder at a contact it'll produce sparks when there's friction caused by panels vibrating or shaking in high winds. If you've charged wires rubbing, it's going to produce sparks, even at 12V.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266857)

I suppose a the transformer to hook to your home wiring could be a problem, but not the panels themselves.

There are many ways a bad solar panel setup could start a fire...

Such as...?

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (5, Informative)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266551)

Did you even try googling it? Here, I found one [venturacountystar.com] .

Including the Simi Valley fire, there have been four incidences of fires in California linked to solar panels, Kateley said. One was caused by a homeowner-installed panel, she noted. 'It does happen' ... "It's a rare occasion, but like any kind of electricity there are going to be instances where it does happen," Dowd said.

Yes it's rare, but that doesn't mean it can't happen if either the solar panel was made or installed improperly. I'm not quite sure how you were modded Insightful when you're clearly an idiot.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266591)

Well a photovoltaic cell is like diode, if it (for some reason) isn't generating electricity then the electricity of the other cells will attempt to flow through it in reverse, causing the cell to heat up in spots (not evenly). The heat build up can be enough to shatter glass (due to uneven thermal expansion and the stress it causes within the glass) but could certainly also set something flammable ablaze.

That's why commercial panels usually have some additional diodes to redirect (at least part) of the current in such a case. This builder didn't mention anything like that so i would expect he didn't have such precaution hence i believe the expressed worry is justified.

Also, for reference, you can expect 1000 Watt / Square meter in direct sunlight, at 15% efficiency that's still 150 Watt. That's certainly enough power to cause a fire.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (-1, Troll)

interested pyro (1499899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266659)

Also, for reference, you can expect 1000 Watt / Square meter in direct sunlight, at 15% efficiency that's still 150 Watt. That's certainly enough power to cause a fire.

there is enough energy from the sun hitting one square mile on the earth to equal the energy released from two atomic nukes exploding, and yet i dont see any mushroom clouds.....

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267003)

Why should anyone believe you when you can't even get your units right? (You're off by a unit of time, not to mention that the amount of energy released by an atomic weapon varies by about two orders of magnitude.)

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (3, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265793)

"Getting an 'uncounted' batch of 'mixed quality' just screams 'stolen'"

Not necessarily, "In October 2008 I bought my first 100 cells via Ebay.", "...I found another seller on Ebay who had the same cells ... But these were slightly damaged."

The first set, could have been someone who bought them, to use as a weekend project sort of thing, but never got around to it, gave up, or moved, "the wife wants these things out of the garage, now!"... the second, being "slightly damaged" may have come from the reverse, a building that was torn down, or upgraded to newer/larger cells, or even something like those various solar car races, they did good, got a sponsor, ditched the clumsy setup they were using, or as someone else pointed out, factory rejects, or possibly damaged in shipping, thus having no warranty, can no longer be sold in a typical commercial way...

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (5, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266073)

But in both those cases they're second hand, rejects, or both. So the hysterical "OMG we're being ripped off 3x" in the summary is bullshit.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266843)

I haven't looked for a while, but you used to be able to buy solar cells very cheaply from reputable sources (the same ones that sold expensive cells and lots of other fun equipment) if you didn't mind irregular shapes and sizes (and therefore irregular outputs). Cells are (were? I don't think this is true with the latest fabrication techniques) made in circular wafers, like microchips, and sold in squares. The off-cuts were sold very cheaply and were great for home electronics projects where you had more surface area than you needed for the cells.

Re:Cells are NEW but also STOLEN (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267263)

I am fairly (95%) certain that the parent AC knows they're stolen, as he's the one that stole them! ;

But they are 'new', extracting Cells from used panels is not cost effective as commercial panels are laminated and string soldered which is very hard to take apart without breaking most of the cells

You would be surprised what a nerd can do with utter junk. When I was a teenager I would take used transistor radios that cost $10 new and turn thsm into guitar fuzzboxes for a heifty profit; the music store sold new fuzzboxes for >$100. I'd pay a dollar for a transistor radio that didn't work and make a tidy $25-30 out of them.

Also, when you buy good quality Solar Panels you usually get around 25 years of warranty and the knowledge that they have been throughly safety tested (and designed) so that they won't burn down your house when one cell short circuits or your getting a bit more sun then imagined. I would think that's worth something by itself.

Which solar panel company do you work for, again?

Re:Are these _new_ panels? (1)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266553)

It could be even cheaper. Imagine if he used these [wired.com] !

Re:Are these _new_ panels? (0, Offtopic)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266997)

I liked this bit:

If you just look around near places were [sic] they renovate old houses you can get the old glass for freeâ¦â¦

I think he means he stole the glass that was waiting to be put in someone's house? You know if you look around the places where they store bank notes you can get old money for free too!

Once again... (5, Insightful)

ddrueding80 (1091191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265395)

Only cheaper if your time is worth nothing. Still, very cool. But not particularly novel or groundbreaking.

Re:Once again... (1)

societyofrobots (1396043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265677)

Exactly, he forgot to include labor costs. Saying free labor is cheaper than hiring labor to assemble the solar cells isn't fair!

Re:Once again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265975)

Free (e.g. you own) labor IS ALWAYS cheaper because you don't have to pay income tax on it.

Re:Once again... (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266085)

Someone who knows what he's doing's labour is cheaper, because he knows what he's doing. Regards, A Smith.

Re:Once again... (1)

cdpage (1172729) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266747)

on the contrary, someone who knows what they are doing is valued higher... they can just get the job done faster...

usually balancing out to around the same price... but often better built.

Re:Once again... (5, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265931)

The folks at http://fieldlines.com/ [fieldlines.com] have been doing this for years. The bigger problems are the sealing of the cells and the fact that since these are most likely rejects the cells might nog give their rated power.

The article summary is dead wrong in suggesting that this is somehow proof that solar cells could be produced cheaper, these cells have probably been hijacked on the way to the recycler.

'making' a solar panel in your garage does not start off with buying solar cells and hooking them up, it starts with sand.

Re:Once again... (5, Informative)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265977)

You could not make silicon in your garage. At least, not in any reasonable garage. The reduction of quartz by carbon only takes place at over 1800K. Then you have a pool of molten silicon full of crap, which you now have to purify to 99.9999% purity for it to be ready to dope and use. This is also not easy.

I think what the guy has done is reasonably impressive given the inherent limitations.

Re:Once again... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266021)

At least, not in any reasonable garage.

That's why I use unreasonable garages.

Re:Once again... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27267289)

Extremely high heat, you say? Plus sand? I think the Middle East may prove useful well beyond the point which their oil runs out. While we are at it, we may just get a chance to test out our new Trident warhead recycling program too.

This ridiculously insensitive comment brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Anonymous Coward.

Re:Once again... (0, Offtopic)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266321)

'making' a solar panel in your garage does not start off with buying solar cells and hooking them up, it starts with sand.

I grow my cannabis, sell the pot and buy nuclear power with the money you insensitive clod!

Re:Once again... (4, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267073)

I think I've got another reason why these cells are so 'cheap'. He's extracting 15.5w with all of those panels combined. Lets say that is 1/4 meter^2, he gets 62w per meter^2. The expensive solar panels they compare it to get 240w per meter^2 (20% efficiency). Power density costs money.

Re:Once again... (5, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266537)

Exactly Home Power had an article on how to do exactly what this guy did over 4 years ago.

Some random guy does it in a garage and blogs about it and all of a sudden it's news.

Guess what, the best deal I found is actually Harbor Freight. They have Solar array kits for very low price, lower than me buying reject cells and building a panel. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90599 [harborfreight.com] 45W for $199US is cheap. I have 3 of those kits on my garage that supplies all my lighting and power needs out there including the garage door opener. (No I am not using their inverter/charger I'm using a real one)

yes that includes me counting my labor as free.

Re:Once again... (1)

BrentWM (320879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267141)

Fine if you have plenty of space, but each of those 3 15 watt panels is about the size of the single 45 watt Solec panel (bought used on eBay) on my boat. Piecing together a panel might make sense for those of us trying to fit small or unusual spaces.

Re:Once again... (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266785)

Only cheaper if your time is worth nothing.

Why does someone always have to point that out in every single thread about DIY projects?

Yes, we all know that "DIY" means spending time on the project. And yes, we all know that our time has value (I would even argue we each have a far more limited supply of time than (potentially) of money).

But in the real world, with a realistic exchange of time for money (I don't work for AIG, dontchaknow), I can afford to spend 30 hours turning $2,000 worth of supplies into a $20k finished product. I can't, however, afford the $20k directly to buy the pre-finished project.

So yes, time has value, but until the day the worms have my eyes for lunch, I have little doubt I'll have far more of the former than the latter.

Used vs. New (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265399)

I don't think it's that uncommon for used goods to cost less than new goods.

Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (5, Funny)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265403)

Wow you mean to tell me if I buy factory defect products that carry no warranty on ebay I can save money!? I never knew! It seems as if the Dutch have found the secret to inexpensive solar power: Factories should ONLY produce bent and dent cells!

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (1)

mmontour (2208) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265499)

Hey, I can do better than that. I can "build" my own solar panels for just the cost of a crowbar and a ladder by ripping them off my neighbor's roof and then soldering new wires to them.

Lame article. Wake me when someone actually makes their own solar cells [scitoys.com] at the $/W of a commercial unit.

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (0, Redundant)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266871)

From the headline, I was expecting the story to be about this man making solar cells from tea and doughnuts [reghardware.co.uk] . Just gluing existing cells together doesn't sound nearly as interesting.

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (4, Funny)

adolf (21054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265577)

Perhaps the Dutch should stick to wind power.

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (3, Funny)

markyd123 (1070260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266195)

Windmills do not work like that! Goodnight!

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (1)

stompertje (927012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266529)

They tend not to eat as much cabbage and beans as they used to, so that's less effective...

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (1)

slazar (527381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265605)

So we should just throw these fairly good panels away? This guy is putting those factory cast offs to good use. He should be praised!

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (1)

anonymous cowshed (1503301) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265967)

Agreed, environmentally (which some people forget that's what this is all about) it is best to reuse items weherever that is possible.

Re:Dutch Man Buys Rejects Saves Money? (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266915)

Factories should ONLY produce bent and dent cells!

Actually your little jest is not entirely wrong. Most silicium manufacturing is geared towards making electronic components, and as such need something like 99.9999% purity which is very expensive.

But solar cells work fine with only 99.9% pure Si, which is a lot cheaper to produce but unfortunately not being done very much yet. There was actually a /. article about this about a year ago.

Built it in his garage? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265405)

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

Re:Built it in his garage? (4, Funny)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265471)

Nah. It's too hot and sunny outside. It's much cooler in the garage.

Re:Built it in his garage? (4, Interesting)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265587)

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).

Re:Built it in his garage? (4, Funny)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265935)

*whooosh*.

Re:Built it in his garage? (5, Funny)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266241)

-1 offtopic!!!

We're talking about solar power not wind power! Some people...

Re:Built it in his garage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27267103)

Clearly it was the installer going *whooosh*

Re:Built it in his garage? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266555)

Then those installers are idiots.

Ever hear of covering things? Last time I watched a bunch of pros install a solar array, every panel had a black cover bag over a piece of kraft paper that was taped to the face. anyone installing them uncovered in the daylight is not properly trained.

Re:Built it in his garage? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266579)

He might have missed the joke (or ignored it) but he does have a point. You can't just turn off solar panels. They produce electricity as long as there is light hitting them. Even in the garage/lab/manufacturing plant you're going to be soldering live circuits. Gogo insulators!

Re:Built it in his garage? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266765)

Assuming you're using an ungrounded soldering iron tip (I sure do!) and assuming the "ON" switch for your panel is in the "OFF" position, there's no complete circuit, whether or not you are soldering on it. (unless you fumble the soldering iron anyway) Now I'd expect some sort of spark when throwing the main switch (internally IN the switch where it belongs) or perhaps a bit of a snap if your idea of a master switch on such a thing is one final large quick disconnect plug. (the thing you were soldering onto the array)

Not disagreeing with those that say covering the panels while working on them is a good idea, it is, but it's not gong to explode, spontaneously ignite, spark heavily, or shock anyone unless they're HV panels. (getting your "expertise" by watching hollywood maybe?) Electricity is a lot safer than many realize. Electricity is also a lot more dangerous than many realize. This is a case of the former. People that don't understand it shouldn't be scaremongering, this is not the time.

The solar cells _were_ mass produced. (4, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265415)

The main costs in solar array manufacturing are manpower, raw structural materials, and the solar cells. Remember that the prices for single solar cells are fairly constant, given that they're mass produced already. Same for the structural materials. That leaves (Cells + Materials) on the hobbyist's side and (Cells + Materials + Labour) on the mass production side. It's not surprising that a hobbyist can construct a panel for a competitive price if he doesn't count his time as a cost.

Re:The solar cells _were_ mass produced. (1)

slazar (527381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265615)

Hey, if you've got the time and the know how, why not do it? This could be done in a few weekends at most.

Re:The solar cells _were_ mass produced. (3, Interesting)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266635)

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).

Not cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265419)

If you've read the article, you know the quality here is poor and there's been no accounting for his labor.

Note as well that First Solar (FSLR) is the first manufacturer to break the $1/W barrier, as announced just a couple weeks ago.

Re:Not cheaper (4, Funny)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265681)

FSLR is set to BLOW! Check out this co4%mpany~~ privately gauss conclusion subacute %2%%(@#3vvv%35$wyzz^a

Why cant we get em cheaper? (0, Troll)

j35ter (895427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265423)

Corporate Greed

Re:Why cant we get em cheaper? (3, Informative)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265859)

Or a lack of market, it's the same as any new(ish) product really, cars 120 years ago were expensive because they were all low-production, then mass manufacturing came in, prices dropped because they were suddenly everywhere, but the newest of the new was always 10x the price of the basic ones... computers, same thing 80 years ago, expensive as hell, because they were all custom, companies may have only made 3 of them a year, now they make thousands a year because there is a market for them, drives down the price, but the newest of the new is still 10x more than the basic...

You can go down to Radio Shack (if they still existed) and buy a bunch of little cells for a couple dollars, because they are everywhere, there's probably like 3 or 4 of them in your house right now, calculator, weatherproof radio, battery recharger, etc... you can buy those for like 50 cents a piece, but they are useless to power your house, you'd have to cover your entire roof, garage, and neighbours house with them for it to work.

Once the company (or people in general) realizes there is a market/use for them, they'll spend the time + money to establish a facility to build them in bulk, with 100 machines, instead of just the 3 machines they are using now, this demand drives down the prices of the materials they need to build them, which drives down the prices of mining the materials, they figure out better/quicker packaging, they establish stable shipping routes, etc etc etc... the faster it's going, the less force needed to keep it there, like pushing someone on a swing, first few pushes are hard, once they are swinging, you can keep them swinging with a pinky push...

Not cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265437)

The cells were used (not new). And he didn't have to pay labor costs for constructing and installing. The headline should read "Man buys used solar cells and installs them himself saving labor costs. Why can't other businesses not pay people and then sell the solar cells cheaper?!"

You too can build things cheap. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265443)

Yeah, it's easy to build things cheap when you get the components cheap.

I must say... (0)

canipeal (1063334) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265477)

that I found this article to be quite *enlightening* I need to go to bed.

Not Proof New Cells Are Overpriced (5, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265481)

The author bought damaged solar cells from eBay, selected the good ones, then soldered those together. Then he jury-rigged his own waterproof casing and electrical connections. Used goods are cheaper but that does not mean new ones are over-priced.

Let us know how long his cells last outside before insinuating all the solar cell producers in the world are selling overpriced gear.

Re:Not Proof New Cells Are Overpriced (3, Interesting)

gravos (912628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265501)

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.

Re:Not Proof New Cells Are Overpriced (1)

slazar (527381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265637)

If you can build it, you can fix it.

Paying one third of retail for parts is typical... (4, Insightful)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265491)

...but you've only paid for the parts, not the labor or the engineering or the rent etc.

The point that the packaging of solar panels is expensive is not lost on me. There's a local firm (Tucson) making thin-film cells which ought to be packaged as plastic-laminated roof shingles to keep the final cost down.

But I admire his fortitude in building a panel. I have a stack of cells in my workshop that I don't see how I'll ever turn into a panel, since it requires lots of glass and care and sticky tape.

Cheap garage (1)

fucket (1256188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265493)

Wow, that's a pretty cheap garage.

Three times less expensive? (1, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265509)

So if a production one costs 10 dollars, 3 time 10 is $30,

Then, because its less, we have to subtract his costs of $30 from the production cost of $10, it costs him minus 20 dollars to build each one?

You mean it was 1/3 the cost of a production unit.

There is no such thing as "3 times less" of anything.

Re:Three times less expensive? (4, Informative)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265543)

So if a production one costs 10 dollars, 3 time 10 is $30,

Then, because its less, we have to subtract his costs of $30 from the production cost of $10, it costs him minus 20 dollars to build each one?

You mean it was 1/3 the cost of a production unit.

There is no such thing as "3 times less" of anything.

So, you're saying that "3 times less" means you get "3 times" and then subtract it. By that logic, "3 times more" would mean you get "3 times" and then add it. So, "3 times more" than $10 would be $40.

This alone should be enough to make you realise that your usage of the terminology is idiosyncratic. In normal English, "3 times more" means you multiple by 3, and "3 times less" means you divide by 3. It is totally unambiguous. It may be colloquial English usage, but it is not incorrect.

Re:Three times less expensive? (3, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265651)

Maybe you could try learning some English?

Yes it's a phase not liked by some people, but it's been used for hundreds of years and anyone who isn't being an idiot understands what it means.

Google actually has the Merriam-Webster's dictionary of English usage half page on it:

http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&pg=PA908 [google.com]

They are slightly more polite than me, but you can feel the "those commentators are idiots" between the lines...

DIY, and in 3 years, Do It Again (5, Informative)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265531)

Panels today have a usable lifespan of over 25 years.

They have the proper connectors, and the appropriate gauge wire. They can handle 50mph hailstones and 90mph wind, and they're all UL listed. They're warranteed, usually for 20+ years. Some are hybrid (sandwiching amorphous Si and crystalline Si), which gather more light and produces more power per sq foot, something that can't currently be made in the garage.

Purchased panels also cost about 3x the price of doing it yourself (maybe $4-6 /watt). However, I would strongly bet that the overall cost of ownership will be higher for DIY folks, who can't compete with the quality of fully-assembled panels. They will have to make their own mountable panels, and doing that right will not be cheap. They will have to be able to handle high winds and weather, too. And the UL listing will also mean that you can be grid-tied, since the utility companies won't allow you to connect non-UL-listed generating stations to the grid.

Some cool things you can do with DIY panels is get exactly the shape you want. You can also add more bypass diodes to handle partial shading better. One of the biggest issues with PV panels is the significant drop in output with only minor amounts of shade.... A single leaf stuck over part of a cell can reduce the panel's output by 25%. But if you DIY, you can put many more bypass diodes into it, causing a much smaller fraction lost. You can even mount it on some sort of heat sink or antifreeze-filled copper plating to get better performance (PV cells work better when cool.)

It's a cool project. But if you're trying to save money over the long term, DIY is probably not the way to go.

Re:DIY, and in 3 years, Do It Again (1)

mr bms (1500083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265799)

Lets not forget as well that solar panels are in big demand at the moment, its pretty much a sellers market at the moment and there is a lot of investment going into both new technology and building up capacity of existing technologies. PV units are generally sold rather than solar cells now and are usually built on the same production line. The big risk for the buyer is *my opinion* the possibility of new PV technology outclassing existing setups.

Re:DIY, and in 3 years, Do It Again (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266447)

You can even mount it on some sort of heat sink or antifreeze-filled copper plating to get better performance (PV cells work better when cool.)

If you're going to the trouble of doing that, it makes sense to transfer that heat to the hot water system. Say a pre-heating system on the hot water cylinder input, for example.

Re:DIY, and in 3 years, Do It Again (2, Interesting)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:DIY, and in 3 years, Do It Again (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266821)

That's the general hardware upgrade cycle problem that we see everywhere, given the current speed at which technology moves. No matter when you buy, you know that a couple years later you could've gotten way more for your money. Eventually you've gotta just take the plunge. Today I could buy an 52" LCD television for a few hundred bucks less than I spent on a comparable quality 46" set eighteen months ago. Such is life.

The people taking the plunge now are helping to drive the demand and fund the improvement to make the better technologies that we'll see in the future. If everyone stopped buying them today, it would just slow the progress that you're counting on.

3*? (1, Insightful)

redGiraffe (189625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265561)

three times less expensive - is that the same as a third of the cost?

I'm not being a grammar nazi, just doesn't make sense (its morning here after a late night, so maybe the synapses haven't whatevered).

Lame (0, Flamebait)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265653)

The headline led me to believe that he was manufacturing photovoltaic cells in his garage, which would have been interesting. I read TFA and come to find out that what he's done is something any 6th-grade kid could do as a science fair project. Not impressed.

Next step, business (1, Interesting)

MikeOtl67of (1503531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265703)

This guy now has got a big opportunity. To start his own line of not expensive solar panels. I would buy one straight away.

soldering together the panels wouldnt be hard (2, Interesting)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265729)

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?

Price vs. Efficiency? (3, Informative)

worip (1463581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27265737)

The panel in the article produced 17 Watts, for a panel size of about 1m x 0.5m (approximated from photo with mobile phone in it). A quick google reveals a 43W polycrystalline panel of similar size for about 300 euros (about 7euros/watt peak)

Grammar (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27265985)

"This makes you wonder if we are NOT paying too much for mass-produced solar panels"... I'm sorry that is really bugging the shit out of me since jeroen8 doesn't know basic grammar. I think he was attempting to go for the common phrase "are we not ___" but instead ended up asking the question in negative. So now your question is backward, meaning a reply of Yes actually means No: "Yes, we are NOT paying too much" instead of "we are paying too much". And btw darkmeridian, there is no such word as 'jury'-rigged

Boys, you all forget one thing (3, Funny)

Sam Lowry (254040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266051)

The story is about the Europe where governments subsidise the solar panel use by giving enormous tax cuts to the buyers of solar panels and even going as far as providing 0-interest credits.

This insane amount of state intervention spawns corruption in the production and supply of the solar panels, which explains such high prices.

Re:Boys, you all forget one thing (2, Insightful)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266151)

Sorry, of course the US would never subsidise alternative energy sources [typepad.com] . It's only evil socialist Europe that does that.

Re:Boys, you all forget one thing (3, Insightful)

risom (1400035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266415)

This insane amount of state intervention spawns corruption in the production and supply of the solar panels, which explains such high prices.

[citation needed]

Really, I know that "state intervention == inefficient" is a popular meme in the US of A, but is there any scientific proof of your assumption?

Re:Boys, you all forget one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266847)

is there any scientific proof of your assumption?

you must be new here

Re:Boys, you all forget one thing (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266949)

The story is about the Europe

Did you mean "teh 3urope"?

Yep! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266083)

The photovoltaic industry is massively controlled. The patents prevent manufacturing monosilicon ingot using solar thermal process, keeping the cost high.

Then there is the inverter cost which are 10 x the cost of manufacturing the inverters.

Then there is the acreditation that does not mean the panels do actualy perform, only that they performed at the time of accreditation

Home made cells are cheaper, Shuco germany makes panels of laminated plastic, how chepa can you get?

Normal glass does not transmit light as efficiently.

A lot of care is taken to prevent moisture to creep into the cells to make them last the 30 years they are supposed to. The silicon paste technique the guy uses is quite sufficient.

Shell just ditched their alternative energy plans. They own a couple of essential photovoltaic patents, so lets hope the don't block the industry.

Anyway, you should be more interested in solar thermal energy, cheaper, easier and more efficient!

Climatebabes rule! www.climatebabes.com

I built mine in the kitchen (1)

azav (469988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266167)

Here's mine without any attention paid to weatherproofing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIQQgXWmu0 [youtube.com]
And I just delivered two to high school in Africa for their science class last week.
Video on the way.

"Three times less expensive?" (2, Funny)

dopeydad (754822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266383)

"is three times less expensive than mass produced solar panels"... Hmmm. If it was "one time less expensive", it'd be free, so if it was *THREE* times less expensive, does that mean he got paid twice the normal cost? I think that probably means to read "one third the cost". Why can't Johnny do math?

Not a fair comparison (4, Insightful)

pz (113803) | more than 5 years ago | (#27266669)

The summary is bad.

1. He bought damaged solar cells from a one-time vendor. There isn't a supply of them for anyone to make. They might have been stolen, they might have been a shipping write-off, whatever. They aren't new solar cells.

2. He scrounged materials, like glass, for free. Manufacturers can't do that. Most people don't have that opportunity.

3. He used wire that he "happened to have" (quoting the article). He bought it at some point, or found it. Again, not something you or I could normally do.

And so forth. Comparing the cost of doing something this way to buying a new cell is invalid and misleading. The summary is bad. And the Slashdot editors are responsible for validating and endorsing the summary, suggesting that they were asleep at the wheel.

Sheesh, can't we get some decent editing here? Has the entire field of news reporting gone to the dogs?

They're probably legit, though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27266803)

Why is it "they might have been stolen" which cannot be argued against (they might have been) is used in a context that means "they HAVE been stolen" which can be argued against?

If you mean "might" then use it as you mean "might". If you want to use it as "it is stolen" then SAY "it is stolen".

You are all a bunch of Sheep! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27267095)

I am appalled at the comments! /.-ers used to be DIY-ers not lemmings. What happened?

This is cool not from the "he's able to compete with a commercial product" standpoint, but because he had the interest, took the time (and money) to tinker and figure it out, and actually built something that works. Would a commercial product be better? Maybe. Probably. Who cares? The fact is that he is having fun doing something rather than moaning about how solar power is not yet available. He is a doer not a complainer. Making a positive contribution rather than complaining.

Sheesh /.-ers. "Nothing to see here. Move along!" Go back to being mass-market fed couch potatoes fattened up for commercial gain.

Bah! And get off my lawn!

anon

I'm just wondering here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27267125)

What one is better, these solar cells or the heat-pipes and parabolic mirrors?

Reflective Glass (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#27267257)

I notice in the two pictures of completed panels that there is significant reflection coming off the front-side glass. That sucks, because any light being reflected off the glass is light that can't be converted to solar power. Although it may not seem like a lot - glass being mostly transparent and all - it can cut down on your overall efficiency by a few percentage points. Commercially available solar panels (for residential and industrial use, anyway) use tempered glass with an anti-reflective coating, which is a lot more expensive than your ordinary plate glass from the hardware store.
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