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Homemade solar panels/wind turbines

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

Let me start by saying I'm new here and hope I don't come across as a total ignoramus (which of course, I am when it comes to this subject, lol!).


I am curious about these ads across the internet that say you can buy their tutorial and that you can offset the cost of brand new solar panels by making your own. These tutorials also include wind turbines. Does anyone know anything about this/experienced it?


We would like to be completely off the grid using solar panels and wind, if we can afford it.


I would love to hear feedback about this. Thanks! :-)

post #2 of 43

Hm...I'm not a solar panel or wind turbine expert myself, but I would imagine that depending on your application, making your own panels or turbines might be difficult if you're looking to get your entire home off grid.


Take this article from Gristmill on DIY wind and solar systems...for $300 and with 3 days, you could build a 50 kilowatt-hours per month turbine for 10% of your electricity usage or for $150, you could make a solar charger for your electronics.  You might also be interested in this thread about Green Power Science's project of building a solar panel from a satellite dish.

post #3 of 43

Forget those rip-off adverts for tutorial leaflets!  See this instructable on how to build a solar panel in step by step pictures for free.


Sure you can make your own panels but it's a fiddly and risky business (you'll break a few cells while doing it) and the end result is unlikely to last 30 years but if you're good at woodwork and soldering, go for it.


One local manufacturer I talked to is doing just this.  They buy in the cells and make the frames themselves.  Only reason I didn't buy from them was that they couldn't guarantee the panels (they only maken the frame and the cell manufacturer won't want to know you if you phone them).



post #4 of 43

I agree the turorials are a rip off - both solar PV and wind.


The wind power DIY and residential units I have done more research on. Most if not all residential wind turbines call for a 28 mph wind to achieve their rated capacity. 28 mph wind is storm conditions and according to NCDC no where in the US gets that kind of average wind. Commercial units are realistic on their generation capabilities.


  The power generated goes down drastically with less wind speed.

"The first key concept that this formula shows is that when the wind speed doubles, the power available increases by a factor of 8. That means there’s very little power available in low winds."


The commercial wind farms use tall towers to get up into better & more stable winds.



post #5 of 43

I looked up the cost/savings for the area where I grew up in Oregon. Good deal!


After rebates & incentives the system for 50% of my requirement would cost 50,000 USD with a 22 year payback - hard to beat that!


For 100% supply it more than doubled (260%) to 135,000 USD with a 25.5 year payback.


Better to invest in a commercial wind farm or something that works. 

post #6 of 43
   Why try to build your own panels or mess with salvage or used when you can get new 40 year panels for $2 to $2.50 per Watt?
   I was buying broken and used panels to save a few $$. Then I found out about SUN ELECTRONICS 511 N.E. 15TH St, Miami, FL 33132 (305)536-9917. You can check out their online catalog:
   I paid $2.25 to $2.48 per Watt but now they have some Sun 150W panels at $1.98 per Watt. I researched building my own and salvaging panels and could not buy the parts for their ready to install price. Scrounging for batteries and inverters and buying finished panels from Sun Electric my 830W system cost $2,200. I also have a hodgepodge of mismatched salvaged and used panels that cost me more than $2.50 per Watt and were a lot more work.
post #7 of 43
Making solar panels is not a easy task. There are many people that think if I build a solar panel that is all I need to do. First let me tell you that if you build more than one they must be the same voltage and AMPs. If they are not exactly like each other the lower power output would be you basic output. Never mix different solar panels into one group. It will work but your power will be reduced to the low wattage solar panel. I do not recommend that you try this in anyway. You could hurt yourself or get shocked. The get rich plans on building your own solar panels is for the publisher of the instructions, or book. You will see if you try this yourself. Would you build a car? No not when you can buy a car! Why build solar panels when you can buy them already done. Think about it!  
post #8 of 43
 Very correct jim386! For a science experiment it is possibly a great idea. For production of power it is a very bad idea.

Some sites selling DIY instructions for solar panels.windmills for 49.99 (reduced from 199.99) USD are saying that follow their instructions and they suggest that for 200 USD you can have your own solar setup. 

The following URL tells the whole story in a very funny manner! this is the truth of the matter!
Edited by Russ - 10/12/09 at 9:24am
post #9 of 43
Also on a semi related note if you're building your own green energy gear, and you end up wanting to sell your home gear and all, you may have a harder time selling. In New Mexico, we built a passive solar house, and wanted to add a bunch of green features (really basic stuff too - I'm talking composting toilets) and our Realtor flipped. He showed us some stats about green features that are more kooky (to the general public, not greenies) and they are a harder sell. Which one, is not a reason NOT to use greener building methods, but it is something to consider if you may sell. Real gear vs. homemade may be an easier selling point.

That said I agree with the above. Building your own is a fun experiment, but not as smart for everyday as buying reliable power methods from an actual maker.
post #10 of 43
whirnot's air collector shown in the renewable forum is a great example of what can be done - though from the appearance he is a very good handyman in the shop.

With heating air the concentration effect is not dangerous like with the Fresnel lens or PV panels. 
post #11 of 43
The great green Google has no problem accepting advertising from companies making outlandish claims.

One of the ads along side the page is for DIY solar. What this ad represents is really a sick joke of someone trying to take advantage of people with too little knowledge in a particular field.

1. Ads by Google  -

2. For a reality check I will again post this link for a bit of a laugh 

post #12 of 43
Roughly How much is all this going to cost for say a four bedroom house?
post #13 of 43
Hi spaloverbill - welcome to the Eco Huddle!

Cost depends on your kWh consumption. That varies widely depending on personal habits.

Geographic location, house orientation and shading all play an important factor in the potential output of panels. You would require less panels in the Mojave Desert than in Seattle for example. Elevation is also considered though it is a minor element. A 200 watt panel puts out 200 watts under specified laboratory conditions - not your home conditions. 

A Southwest USA location may receive an annual average of 5.5 hours of productive sunlight per day.

Panels - the cheapest they have ever been - are now in, roughly, the 3 to 4 USD per watt range then comes the inverter, installation and what all. Grid tie is generally preferred (though not by all) as it eliminates the battery storage. It also works best in places that have net metering or a FIT (feed in tariff). PV panels are far more attractive in LA than central Oregon due to the cost per kWh of power.

The first place to start is to reduce the load as much as possible. Energy efficient lamps and appliances can help minimize the system size required and consequently system cost. Energy efficiency is far, far cheaper than PV power.

Do you use electricity for heating? Is a well pump involved?

The first step in utilizing solar power should probably be thermal panels for water heating. Water heating is something like 4 times more efficient than power production.  

Edited by Russ - 10/19/09 at 10:34am
post #14 of 43
Hey Guys,

I'm a consultant for Turbina wind and we've developed a wind turbine that can generate full capacity of 300 W or 5000 KW at wind speeds of 1.5 m/s.  I know it sounds crazy, but if you google Turbina + Platts you'll see that we're in contention for the Sustainable Technology Innovation of the Year. 

Russ, could you contact me?  I can't send private messages yet and I'd like to get your opinion on what you think about our technology.

Best regards,

post #15 of 43
Hi Dave, Welcome to the Eco Huddle!

The problem is that at low wind speeds there is very little power in the wind. A turbine would have to be huge to be productive at 1.5 m/s. Around 5 m/s is the usual cutoff - above that being usable. If your group can do something considered impossible by most then I am all for it! 

Betz's law calculates the available power in wind at any speed which I am sure you know about but other readers may not.

post #16 of 43
Hey Russ,

I over shot my estimates.  You were right.  Unfortunately, I'm the marketing guy and not the engineer.  I spoke with the engineers to get a fact check and 1.5 m/s is the cut-in wind speed.  I'm in the process of putting together a website that explains just how the technology works.  I'll update you when it's done and the engineers have fact checked everything.

I'd really like your opinion.  In the last couple days since I've been studying the basics of wind energy, it looks like there is a lot of bad info out there.  I thought I was a smart guy with a BS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology but this stuff gives me headaches.  Wind variability, direction, energy density curves.  The economics of wind energy makes me feel like a 4th grader again.

Much kudos to everyone at ecohuddle that is helping to get proper information to the public.

Best regards,


P.S.  I'm really sorry for posting false info.  I'll do much more due dilligence in future posts.
post #17 of 43
Hi Dave, Thanks for the follow up on your original post. All of us are learning and hopefully all of us do better tomorrow than today.

Wind is very interesting and there is far more garbage information floating around than good. Many people get excited about the latest idea with no idea whether it is practical, has a basis in engineering or is just a scam cooked up during wild chatter.

I try to make myself and life style more green over time but I really get irritated with the 'kill the people to save the whales' bunch you find on so many green sites. I also get irritated with many of the green blogs that are no more than someone with a PC who likes to chatter.

I would be happy to be of assistance in any way I am able.

Best Regards,
post #18 of 43
This is one of the hardest answers that I know how to answer. First look at your yearly electric bill. Pick on the month that uses the most electric power. Now that you have that bill in your hand. Just look at the total amount of KW used for that expensive month. There are 720 hours a month. Take your KW usage and divide this by 720 and you will have your answer. Electric power is based on usage and not how many feet the home is our even how many bedrooms. Now if you are going to build a home. I recommend that you consider a solar thermal hot water heating system, geothermal heating and cooling system. White roof and solar panels installed on a two axis solar stand. That will make the home sustainable and off grid.
post #19 of 43
Hi  jim386, Virtually no one wants to buy solar panels which are still horribly expensive to support the typical home electrical load.

Step 1 is energy conservation to try to reduce to overall requirement.

If someone put solar thermal panels on the roof to try to support a hydronic hot water heating system the roof would be covered with those panels alone. I was interested in this scheme until I looked at it closely. No hope!

Geothermal heating and cooling is better - how good depends on your location and the underground temperature. That temperature varies widely over the country with Southern areas typically being warmer but you have to look at data for your particular area. The heat exchange area, either pipe loops in wells or buried is an extra cost. For me the cost of 3 wells for heat exchange was prohibitive. The payback was off in never-never land. The more efficient inverter style heat pumps are nearly as efficient as geothermal ground source heat pumps.

For an individual home, good roof insulation is most important. The white color really only reflects some of the light to lower the overall area temperature gain.

An off grid solar system has to have batteries and is far less efficient than a grid connected solution making an already expensive system even more expensive. If frequent power failures are not a problem and the grid is available it is by far the best 'battery'.

For a new home design passive solar is important as well as:
1) home orientation - direction the home faces
2) thermal mass
3) use natural draft for cooling - depending on the area
4) correct windows for the location and select locations with heat gain/loss in mind
5) overall insulation - type and thickness
post #20 of 43
I'm curious about why you discounted solar thermal water heating... I've been following some end users on a forum where they've installed evacuated tube collectors and it seems to be worthwhile.  More so that my PV system in terms of power saved by not using gas or electric for water heating.

On a November sunny day it can heat up 200+ litres of water from 15'C to 60'C by the end of the afternoon, according to the guy who's installed 60 tubes on his roof.

See the install here:,8465.120.html

I burn about 4kW a day in electric heating a 100L tank of water (about 30% of all my electricity usage) so am thinking of getting a similar (if smaller) hot water solar system.

My off grid PV system is about 1.2kW now and I've experimented with using a tool transformer to convert the 3kW water heater into a 640W dump load in the summer (by running the 230V heater element at 115V).  When the batteries get full I run the inverter to deliver power to the water heater upstairs and get some warm (35'C) water for free.  This then saves grid electric in the evening to get it up to 60'C.

I was wondering if it really was worth sticking with off-grid but then last month we had a 90 minute power cut a a few "brown-outs" as well.

This autumn, I've been making an average of 2kWh solar a day (up to 18% of daily consumption).

Maybe the most cost effective thing we've done though is get insulation put in the outer wall cavity just before the weather turned cold... Should save enough gas to pay for itself in under two years (especially as we got it cheap by way of a government grant).
post #21 of 43
Solar thermal for DHW (household) use is great - I have it and still in mid November don't use electric power for hot water (unless we have 2 consecutive days with little sun). That is using about 6 m2 of panel and a 350 liter hot water tank. Today we received a little over 3 kW/m2 and the tank temperature is 60 degrees C.

To use solar thermal as heat supply for a hydronic in floor heating system is not so practical though. My air source heat pump heats a recirculating water system pumping approximately 3.5 m3/hour. At something like 200 liters per panel per day that would require a lot of panels - more than I have either money or space for.

Storage for the hours when the panels are not providing hot water is another very big problem. I would need 30 to 40 m/3 of storage of 55 degree water - possibly a bit more than that even.

Solar thermal does not provide adequate temperature for use with the old style radiators.

The evacuated tube types can provide a higher water temperature than the flat plate types but not enough to cover the difference in costs I don't believe. The SRCC tests don't show much difference in efficiency between the two types (flat plate vs. evacuated tube) in total heat output per day as I understand them. 
post #22 of 43

Wow! You guys should totally submit these buildings you are talking about, whether you work in them, or study in them or live in them, to The Emerson Cup 2010.


The Emerson Cup is an annual event that is now in its third year in India after being held for 7 years in China. The Cup recognizes the advances made in the field of energy efficiency by real estate developers and their contribution towards green conservation. If you think you stand a chance of winning, then follow these instructions to nominate yourself


Hurry!! Entries are open only till August 20th!!

post #23 of 43

Hi Russ, this is Sophie Chen, from China, I am new here. I have read some discussion with other memebers, you are really an expert in the field of renewable energy.


I am working for a medium-size wind turbine manufacturer Baoding Rich Wind New Energy Equipment Co., Ltd. I also want to have more chances to discuss with members here, such as market of energy, technology and so on.


By the way, Russ do you have any opinion about the potentional market for 50kw wind turbine in America and Europe?

post #24 of 43

Manufacturing your own panels seems well out of reach. But I could imagine significant savings if you're able to buy the panels, the wiring, and all the attendant transformers and electronics separately and install them yourselves. However, I think you'd basically need to be an electrician to make this work. It's got to be at least as difficult as rewiring a room for 220, which I would personally never undertake. Re-tiling a bathroom, sure.... but if it involves electricity, you're talking a whole new level of DIY.


I have no doubt that there are many companies out there who would try to make money selling you a bunch of parts, or just some pamphlet telling you which parts to buy. But this seems like a very low value-add and for almost all homeowners not a reasonable DIY project.

post #25 of 43



I am not sure about how many of you actually believe that one can save a lot of money through DIY solar kits. At least. I truly believe it is possible. I offer online video tutorials to many subscribers and provides DIY kits on residential solar energy installations.


In my opinion, most of the people do not opt for solar energy because of the high installation cost. This apprehensive behavior will cost us a fortune in the long run. Thus, if we can reduce the installation cost, why just not run an extra mile.


post #26 of 43

I think building them or paying someone to build them is a good option. You can find really good deals on the bay for solar cells.

aluminum angle is super cheap.

I did this and created a solar bike !

post #27 of 43

You are seemed to be a energy saver person. I also very much in favor of solar energy and equipment to save electrical energy cost by using natural Sun energy.To know more about solar panel try this.


post #28 of 43

Hi evryone!  I just finished my PMA for my homemade windturbine. I posted a couple of video on youtube explaining in every steps the building process... Here is a link of  my videos


HI guys!!

!I just finished the generator




post #29 of 43

I'm not sure about the ads around the internet that you'd have to pay for viewing the tutorial on how to make one. I think there are other sites out there that are generous enough to help other people who would want to learn how to build their own solar panels. Although there are other sites that seems to be credible. Honestly, the major requirement that you need to have when building your own solar panel is PATIENCE. If you don't have it then better yet not to start building one. Not to mention buy the right tools too.



post #30 of 43

Excellent video!   I had seen a horizontal wind generator about 4 years ago, similar to that design; but 1 long twisted piece instead off 3.  I think the reasoning was view- since it could lie down out of sight, and bird safety when compared to those large windmills.


If it was any good, that design will return- I am sure of it!

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