Building the panel
Step 1 – Purchase the 36 3X6-inch mono crystalline solar cells, which can be found on eBay or other websites. Be sure they come with metal tabs connected to them. These transmit the solar energy from the panels, and if the panels do not come with this tabbing material, you will have to solder then on yourself!
Step 2 – Cut a piece of 3/8-inch plywood to measure 45 3/4 inches by 22 1/4 inches.
Step 3 – Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch-square wood strips to measure 45 3/4 inches long.
Step 4 – Cut three more pieces of 3/4-inch-square wood to measure 20 3/4 inches long.
Step 5 – Place the pieces from Step 1 (the three 45 3/4-inch long pieces of 3/4 X 3/4) along the corresponding sides of the piece of plywood.
Step 6 – Fasten them using short screws.
Step 7 – Drill five 1/4-inch holes into two of the 20 3/4-inch pieces of wood. The holes are very important, since they will act as vent holes to equalize the air pressure inside the panel and allow moisture to escape.
These two pieces will be the middle and bottom pieces of your panel. Remember this–it’s very important!
Step 8 – Using the same type of screws, attach two of the 20 3/4-inch pieces of 3/4 X 3/4 to each end of the piece of plywood. They should fit between the ends of the two longer pieces. Be sure you don’t place screws so they will go through the 1/4-inch vent holes!
Step 9 – Attach the final piece of 3/4 X 3/4 to the center of the plywood. You want to create two sections measuring 21 3/4 inches long each.
Step 10 – Cut two pieces of Masonite peg-board to measure 20 3/4 inches by 21 3/4 inches. They need to fit inside each of the sections of your panel.
Step 11 – Cut a piece of Plexiglass to cover the top of your panel. It can be one large piece or two smaller pieces. You want it to be the same dimensions as the piece of plywood: 45 3/4 inches X 22 1/4 inches.
Step 12 – Paint the wooden parts of the panel with several coats of paint. It doesn’t matter what type of paint your use, as long as it will protect the exposed wood from the elements.
Step 13 – Paint the Masonite pegboards as well. Once again, it doesn’t matter what type of paint you use, as long as it provides protection from the elements.
Attaching the cells to the pegboard
Step 1 – Each half of the panel must hold 18 solar cells. Figure out how you want to place them by drawing grid-lines in pencil on the pegboard. It is best to make three rows of six cells each for each half of the panel.
Step 2 – Lay the solar panels onto the pegboard but place them upside down.
Step 3 – Solder tabs onto the back of each cell.
Step 4 – Place a small dollop of silicone caulk in the center of the back of each cell–a very small amount! Too much glue could cause the cells to eventually break apart. And only place glue at the center!
Make sure that the tabs are not stuck beneath the cell!
Step 5 – Repeat this entire process for the section section of your panel.
Attaching the cells to each other
Step 1 – You should now have three rows of six cells each.
Step 2 – Solder the tabs together, connecting each cell to the next one in line.
Step 3 – Using either copper braid, solar cell tabbing material, or plain wire and silicone caulk, attach the first row of cells to the second and the second to the third. Attach this piece to the tabs and to the surface of the pegboard using silicone caulk.
Step 4 – Repeat this entire process to make the second section of your panel.
Attaching the pegboard to the panel
Step 1 – Place the two pieces of pegboard in their respective wells on the wooden panel.
Step 2 – Use four small screws on each piece of pegboard to hold them in place.
Step 3 – Connect a piece of wire to each of the two halves of the panel and run it through the vent holes in the central divider to connect the two half-panels together. Anchor it in place with silicone caulk.
Step 4 – Take a blocking diode and connect the ringed end of the diode to another piece of wire and the other end to the tabbing material.
Step 5 – Anchor the diode to the top end of the panel.
Step 1 – Drill a small hole in the back of the plywood to run your wires through.
Step 2 – You should have two wires from Steps 3 and 4 of the previous section, one running from the panel and the other running from the end of the diode. Tie them together in a knot just as they exit through the hole.
Step 3 – Anchor them with silicone caulk.
Step 4 – Add more silicone caulk at the other side of the hole.
Step 5 – Connect the wire ends to a two-pin jones plug. This plug will connect with your charge controller.
Covering the panel
Step 1 – Allow all silicone caulk to dry and cure completely.
Step 2 – Drill and counter-sink holes along the end of the Plexiglass. Be very careful, because Plexiglass can break at the edges!
Step 3 – Place the Plexiglass atop the 3/4-inch-square wood and line up the edges.
Step 4 – Drill small screws through the holes.
Step 5 – You should now have a completed solar panel, ready to connect to your charge controller!