The Internet is full of websites that advertise and give you steps on how to make solar panels.In fact DIY (Do it Yourself) Solar Panels has become almost a regular industry in training common people to make solar panels at their homes.The reason given is that building solar panels at your home is much cheaper than buying solar panels from wholesalers.There are numerous books as well that you can buy on amazon that have diy solar panels.These books have nothing but a manual on how to solder solar cells together to make a solar panel.You can pretty much get this for free from any of the credible solar websites.However DIY Solar Panels throws up tons of books and website advertisements that seemingly would make you into a wizard solar panel maker.The truth is far from what these charlatans say.Solar Cell and Solar Panel prices have fallen drastically in the last few years.In fact you can buy very good solar panels from China and other places.In fact you can buy very good quality Japanese solar panels from Sharp or Sanyo at $600 for a 200 watt solar panel.
Building your Solar Panel to Save Money is like Building your own LCD Television – Plain Dumb
Building a solar panel at home using old solar cells is one of the dumbest ideas I have seen for saving money.Old Solar Cells have much lesser productivity as compared to new solar cells.This means that in the long term that electricity you save would be much lower leading to higher costs.Also your solar panel made at home will never have the quality of a machine made solar panel made in a factory.Its like making a shoe or a TV at home.Its good for hobbyists and enthusiasts but stupid for someone trying to save money.Note Solar Panel Prices have fallen to as low as $1/watt in bulk from some Chinese solar panel producers.I can bet that nobody can build a good solar panel at home at $2/watt .Using old solar cells and cheap materials will give you an inferior solar panel not a cheaper solar panel.
Why its Stupid to Build your DIY Solar Panels
The Internet is filled with websites advertising how to make solar panels.Most of these websites are misleading the public as they teach nothing but how to solder used solar crystalline cells together.Making solar panels from its basic polysilicon material is well nigh impossible for hobbyist.Buying used solar cells from eBay and putting them together is hardly a very useful or educational activity.It will also give you a solar panel which will give erratic performance and probably burn out in a few years.Compare that to solar panels made by established manufacturers which give you a 25 years warranty with set performance guarantees.Here are some reasons why making do it yourself (DIY) Solar Panels is a stupid activity
a) Produces a 3rd rate product which will only work for a few years
b) You can buy a solar panel from a distributor for very cheap prices now.The margins earned by solar panels companies are no more than 10% (pure play solar module producers),so you can be sure that you are not overpaying for solar panels
c) You can never hope to achieve the efficiency and low costs by trying to replicate an industrial large scale process done by automated machines.
d) Soldering solar cells together is hardly an intellectual challenge and you would fail to encapsulate and protect the solar cells .
Free Solar Panels Scam
Some Solar Installers and EPC Players have started a new scam.This Scam has saying that they will give you solar panels for free.Nothing in life comes free so why are these for profit capitalist companies giving you solar panels for free.The reason is that these companies are pocketing the subsidies from the government and selling you electricity.In this case these companies will make a bundle of money using your name and property.Its no different for a fraud Nigerian email scam which offers you tons of money for free.
How to Buy Good Solar Panels Cheaply
Solar Panels can be compared somewhat to PCs with most of the equipment and parts being common to most of the solar panel manufacturers.Though there is a large difference in both these products,note there is little difference between a HP and a Dell computer.Most of the parts going into a PC like Intel chips,Memory are sourced from outside and common to almost all brands.Same is the case with solar panels with the raw materials polysilicon and equipment used to make the solar panels being mostly common.There are a number of big solar panel manufacturers.Here is a list of the biggest solar panel producers.The best ones are not necessarily the biggest ones.
Lowest Cost Panel Producer in Thin Film Technology
First Solar,the US based Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) is the lowest cost panel producer in the world today if you don’t include any penalty for low efficiency.Even if you penalize the Cd-Te Technology for its lower efficiency vis-a-vis the higher efficiency crystalline technology,First Solar is clearly the leader with a core cost of 74c/watt.The company has a roadmap of reducing the cost to 52c/watt by 2014 and given its track record it seems quite achievable.In Cd-Te,some new competitors have claimed even lower costs than First Solar but they have yet to prove it in large scale production.General Electric,Abound Solar are some of the other Cd-Te players which are planning commercial production in a year or two.But with around 2 GW of capacity,they will have a lot of catching up to do.
CIGs Technology can challenge First Solar Dominance
CIGs Technology is becoming the Thin Film Choice amongst most of the newer players.TSMC has a scary cost target of 19c/watt in 2-3 years while other startups like Miasole,Nanosolar,Solar Frontier have also talked a lot without actually coming to the market in scale.However CIGs promises a better efficiency that Cd-Te and seeing the number of CIGs players its only a matter of time before someone makes a big success out of it .
Crystalline Silicon (c-Si) Technology Lowest Cost Producer
In Crystalline Silicon Technology,Trina Solar and Yingli Solar are the lowest cost producers of solar panels today at around $1/watt.Their very low processing cost and vertically integrated model makes their panels the cheapest and has allowed them to grow their margins to a high level.However these companies can’t be complacent as polysilicon producers like LDK and Renesola could lower the cost even further due to polysilicon integration.Yingli has already set up a 3000 ton poly plant which would make it the lowest cost producer in 2011 inching ahead of Trina Solar
Distributors of Solar Panels Fleece Customers with High Margins
Solar Panels despite being mostly a commodity comes in a wide variety of types,technology,prices,size and colors.You can read an introduction about the lowest cost panels here.With there being no global index of Solar Panel Prices and with Prices of Solar Panels forming very quickly,its a difficult problem in acquiring the cheapest solar panels.The problem is compounded for solar panel buyers because these panels are typically sold by wholesalers and distributors who charge fat margins without providing any additional value.Also due to the lack of knowledge about the quality and the properties of solar panels,buyers generally get fleeced.Also panels are seldom sold separately as it is generally part of the overall package of the complete installation of panels,inverters,wiring,connection and integration.Here is a quick overview of which are the companies which make the lowest cost solar panels on the planet at a good quality and the most recent prices which they are selling at.Notice that the European and Japanese solar panels are of much higher price despite there being very little to differentiate themselves from Asian solar panels.