How to Make a Cheap Solar-Powered Generator

by Jason Thompson ; Updated July 27, 2017
Damaged or broken solar cells can still work normally.

Items you will need

  • Damaged solar cells
  • Small sheet of plywood (large enough to hold the cells)
  • Sheet of plexiglass the same size as the plywood
  • Thin wooden strips, long enough to place around the perimeter of the plywood
  • Long wire (as many feet as half the number of solar cells plus 6 inches)
  • Electrically conductive glue
  • Wire strippers

The sun provides an inexhaustible and free source of light, making solar generators-also called solar panels-an effective source of electricity for the environmentally or budget-conscious household. Solar panels have no moving parts and so require very little maintenance. The chief cost lies in their purchase and installation. New solar panels can be expensive, but there are cheaper alternatives for homeowners willing to do a little work.

Step 1

Purchase damaged solar cells from a solar cell distributor or online auction site. Solar cells function perfectly well when damaged or even broken. If you break a solar cell in two, each piece will function like a whole solar cell but with half the power of the original cell. Because damaged cells do not look good, they often are sold at a significant discount.

Step 2

Calculate the number of cells you will need. To do this, decide what voltage you want your solar panel to produce. Twelve-volt storage batteries often are used to store electricity and to run small household appliances. A solar panel meant to charge such a battery can be very small and inexpensive. To determine the number of cells you need to make this panel, divide 12 by the voltage rating of the solar cells you are using. You need a few more solar cells than this number to prevent back charging.

Step 3

Glue the cells onto the plywood using the electrically conductive glue. Leave a short line of glue protruding from underneath each cell. These lines will form the negative terminals of each cell. Cut out one 6-inch length of wire and remove 1 inch of insulation from each end. Glue it to the last cell's negative terminal.

Step 4

Cut out as many segments of wire as there are solar cells. Make each segment 6 inches long. Strip 3 inches of insulation off of one end of each of these short wires using the wire strippers. Remove 1 inch of insulation from the other ends.

Step 5

Attach each of the short wires to the tops of the cells using the conductive glue. These form the positive terminals of the cells. Glue the free end of each positive terminal to the negative terminal of the cell next to it. This should leave one free positive terminal on one end, and one free negative terminal on the other.

Step 6

Glue the short thin wooden strips around the perimeter of the plywood, leaving the extra wires protruding over the edge. Glue the plexiglass onto the tops of the wooden strips. The plexiglass will protect the solar panel from rain and some impacts.


  • Tips: To increase the speed with which this solar panel charges the battery, add more rows of solar cells identical to the first. Hook the extra positive terminals of each row together, and the extra negative terminals of each row to each other as well.


  • Warnings: Be careful when handling the damaged cells, as they are made of broken glass.

About the Author

Jason Thompson has been self-employed as a freelance writer since 2007. He has written advertisements, book and video game reviews, technical articles and thesis papers. He started working with Mechanical Turk and then started contracting with individuals and companies directly via the Web.

Photo Credits