Scientific Research & Self-Development Activism
All the same reasons apply for why the site isn't as active recently. I am working on site related stuff daily, please be patient if you care!
This post is the first in a series dedicated to my DIY Solar Panel Project.
The aim of this project is to build, utilise and maintain solar panels made in the cheapest, safest and most environmentally friendly way possible! To do this I will hopefully be recycling (I'm counting buying pre-owned or broken materials as recycling because it's not buying new things when it can be avoided), buying products locally and using knowledge from anyone with useful information willing to give it out for free, whether it be friends, family, amateurs or professionals.
Step One: Acquisition of materials
NB: Solar "panels" and solar "cells" are the same thing, solar panels are groups of solar cells that have already been connected together.
So I've done the main thing (if I've not been scammed by internet fraudsters) which is buying solar cells. I couldn't find anyone selling solar cells locally, especially not "broken" cells; cells which are physically broken into smaller pieces but essentially still work as intended (If you're not sure how solar cells work, I will be doing an article about this soon! Check out the articles section under media in the sitemap above).
Therefore I purchased 2KG of solar cells from ebay auctioneers that seemed trustworthy (highly rated on ebay, according to both the ebay guidelines and the advice of friends who use ebay frequently). The cells are labelled as broken but still working perfectly, which basically means they are cracked or not whole pieces of solar panels ie, bits of each panel have chipped off. The weight of the cells is irrelevant as only the surface area effects how much power the cells produce and each kilogram of cells should, in good conditions, produce over 300 Watts of energy and with the 2KG I have bought, I should be able to produce over 600W, in good conditions, quite easily.
Watts means Joules (unit of energy) per second. So in a system producing 600W I should gain 600J every second to charge my battery system (explained later).
The next step in gaining materials, is gaining necessary resources with which to construct a suitable frame in which the solar cells would sit. Solar panels are extremely fragile and, as explained above, although this does not effect the usefulness of each cell, if parts break, they must be reconnected to the electrical circuit (simple explanation coming soon about circuits) in order to work and this requires more materials. Placing the panels within a frame means they become more resilient to damage, possibly from weather.
The materials I hope to build my frame from is either metal, wood or plastic. I hope to be able to recycle all the materials by claiming them from scrap yards where they would possibly be put in landfills with other non recycleable waste (which is not all non recycleable) or recycled into other things anyway. I hope not to waste as much as I can and any materials I don't use will be given to some sort of recycling centre, if possible, or donated to others for use, if they request it.
The final step in acquiring materials will be getting hold of all the electrical componenets such as batteries (I'm not certain what type I will use but am looking into recycling old, disused but working, car batteries), wires and solder (to link all of the components together), a diode (which will stop the battery discharging when it's not charging ie, when the solar panels are not charging the battery, the battery will retain the energy it has gained during charging), components which make it possible to plug household appliances into the system safely (I'm still researching this, but it is definitely possible and has been done many times in DIY projects before) and the tools to make all the materials useable and safe (hopefully I can borrow tools for free, locally to save resources; also proving that sharing things you don't plan on using all the time isn't inconvenient, in fact owning things I won't use all the time is an inconcenience ie, if I buy tools, I've wasted money and materials because the tools will sit unused for prolonged periods of time in which they could be serving a purpose for someone else)
I will keep you updated on the progress of this project as it happens. The current estimated delivery time for my first load of solar panels is 30th March 2012 (Less than a week from now) and I should be going to a scrap yard this week if all goes well!