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How to make Solar Panels – Why its Stupid to Build your own DIY Solar Systems

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Solar Panels have become a mass phenomenon as Bloomberg reported a few days ago rivaling in explosive growth the Apple iPad. Falling prices of solar panels coupled with the growing prices of fossil fuels has made solar panels increasingly more attractive to end users .Besides it also helps one contribute towards climate change mitigation. Solar Panel prices have come down by 40-50% due to mass manufacturing by low cost Chinese companies like Trina Solar (TSL), Suntech (STP), Canadian Solar (CSIQ)etc.You can find a list of affordable and cheap solar panel producers here.

How are Solar Panels Made

Solar Panels are made mainly from polysilicon the same stuff which is used to make semiconductors. Polysilicon is then cast into ingots and sliced into very thin wafers. These solar wafers are then turned into solar cells through an elaborate process which involves process similar to semiconductor fabs like etching, diffusion etc. Solar Cells are the basic building blocks of Solar Panels. These Solar Cells are stringed together to make Solar Panels which involves soldering, encapsulating, mounting them on a metal frame, testing etc. Note the whole process of producing solar panels is a common industrial process though differences exists. For example Sunpower (SPWR) makes very high efficiency solar panels using a proprietary process. Thin Film Solar Panels on the other hand can never be made at home. These are highly complex processes which are done in one go unlike the different phases of a c-Si Solar Panel.

Why is it 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.


The websites advertising the teaching of making solar panels are quite misleading in nature as the solar panels made at home are neither cheap nor do they have good quality. Producing Solar Panels at home is like producing a Laptop at home. You can probably do it but you would be stupid to do it if you wanted a cheaper or a good quality laptop. Earlier making computers at home used to be a profitable activity as components used to be available and it did not require quality control etc. But Solar Panels are not profitably made at home, as solar panel producing companies barely make any margins from producing solar modules from solar cells.

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Abhishek Shah

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