How Do You Make Simple Solar Energy?

How do you make simple solar energy?

Solar energy is the radiant energy from the sun that is harnessed using various technologies like solar heating, photovoltaics, and more. Solar energy is renewable, widely available, and environmentally friendly. According to recent statistics, solar energy accounts for just over 2% of U.S. electricity generation, but that number is rapidly growing as solar technology gets cheaper and more efficient [1]. With climate change threatening our planet, and fossil fuels being finite, solar power is emerging as an important piece of our clean energy future.

There are many benefits to using solar energy. First, it produces no air or water pollution. Solar is also very reliable, with the sun providing enough energy in one hour to the earth to power human activities for an entire year [2]. Solar power can be used in many applications, from small scale residential to large scale utility, and improves energy access and security. With solar panel prices dropping 90% in the last decade, solar power is now cost competitive with fossil fuels [3]. From powering homes to running large power plants, solar energy has emerged as a critical technology to fight climate change and build a sustainable energy future.

Gather Materials

The main materials needed to build a simple solar energy system are:

  • Solar cells – These absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. You’ll need multiple cells connected together to generate enough power. Silicon solar cells are common.
  • Wires – Electrical wiring is needed to connect the solar cells together into a panel, and to connect the panel to other components.
  • Battery – A rechargeable battery like a deep cycle lead-acid battery is required to store the energy produced by the solar panels for later use.
  • Charge controller – This regulates the voltage and current from the solar panels to safely charge the battery.
  • Inverter – An inverter converts the DC output from the solar panels and batteries into standard AC power for household devices.
  • Mounting equipment – Racks, stands, or mounting adhesive are needed to securely install the solar panels in place.

Other helpful materials include solder, connectors, special solar panel encapsulant, junction boxes, and fuses for safety. Refer to solar panel kit instructions for a full list of required components.

For example, see the material lists at for guidance on items needed for a DIY solar panel project How-To-Build-A-Solar-Panel/.

Understand Solar Cell Basics

Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells work by converting sunlight directly into electricity using the photoelectric effect. PV cells are made of semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight shines onto a solar cell, the photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the semiconductor material, causing the electrons to become excited and jump from the valence band to the conduction band. This process generates electron-hole pairs. The built-in electric field of the PV cell separates the electrons and holes, creating a voltage difference and electric current. The electrons flow out of the cell into an external circuit where they can power an electrical load like a lightbulb or device. The current returns to the cell through the circuit and the process repeats as long as sunlight shines on the cell, generating electricity.1

Connect Solar Cells

To produce enough power for most applications, individual solar cells need to be connected together to form larger solar panels. There are two main ways to connect solar cells – in series or in parallel.

In a series connection, the solar cells are wired together end-to-end, with the positive terminal of one cell connected to the negative terminal of the next cell. This increases the voltage output of the panel. In a parallel connection, all the positive terminals of the solar cells are connected together, and all the negative terminals are connected together. This increases the current output of the panel.

For small solar panels, mono-crystalline silicon cells are often wired in series to produce 12V, 24V or 48V. For larger solar arrays, the panels themselves can be connected in series to increase the voltage. Parallel connections are used when you need higher current. Typically, solar panels combine series and parallel wiring to optimize voltage and current.

It’s important to use an appropriate wire gauge that can handle the expected amperage without overheating. For connecting individual cells, 16 AWG or 18 AWG wire is commonly used. For connecting panels in an array, 10 AWG or 12 AWG wire is recommended.

Here is a useful reference on connecting solar cells in series vs. parallel: How to connect two solar panels in series or parallel, and what are the differences between them?

Connect Charge Controller

A solar charge controller is an essential component of any solar power system. It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery to prevent overcharging. Overcharging damages batteries and shortens their lifespan.

The basic steps to connect a charge controller are:

  • Connect the positive (+) wire from the solar panel array to the solar positive terminal on the charge controller.
  • Connect the negative (-) wire from the solar array to the solar negative terminal.
  • Connect a positive wire from the charge controller battery positive terminal to the positive terminal of the battery bank.
  • Connect a negative wire from the charge controller battery negative terminal to the negative terminal of the battery bank.

Most charge controllers will have clear polarity markings to ensure proper connections. Always double check the wiring before turning on the system.

It’s critical to size your charge controller appropriately for your system’s power output. Undersizing can lead to the controller overheating. Oversizing is fine and gives room to expand panels in the future. Refer to the controller’s manual for appropriate solar array and battery bank sizes.

For more details on solar charge controller installation and setup, refer to this helpful video guide.

Connect Battery Storage

Selecting the appropriate battery is crucial for storing solar energy efficiently and safely. The most common types of batteries used for solar energy storage are lead-acid, lithium-ion, and saltwater batteries [1]. Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive but heavy and require maintenance. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter, longer-lasting, and more efficient, but more expensive. Saltwater batteries use saltwater electrolytes and are non-toxic and long-lasting [2].

Proper maintenance and storage of solar batteries is also important. Batteries should be kept in cool, dry places and charged regularly even when not in use. Do not let the charge drop below 50%. Inspect batteries regularly for corrosion or damage. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance. With proper selection, maintenance, and storage, solar batteries can safely store energy for many years.

Connect Inverter

An inverter is a crucial component of a solar energy system. It converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power home appliances and devices.

The inverter takes the DC output from the solar panels and uses a high-frequency transformer to create AC electricity in a process called inversion. Most household appliances run on 120V or 240V AC electricity, so the inverter allows the solar system to effectively power these devices (Bluetti Power).

To connect the inverter, run wires from the DC output of the solar charge controller into the DC input terminals of the inverter. Make sure the DC voltage from the solar panels matches the input voltage range of the inverter. Connect the AC output terminals of the inverter to your household electrical system.

For grid-tied systems, the AC output can be connected directly to your breaker panel to power devices throughout your home. For off-grid systems, you’ll need batteries wired between the charge controller and inverter to store power when the sun isn’t shining (Fallon Solutions).

With the inverter properly connected, you can plug appliances and devices into your solar-generated AC electricity to utilize clean, renewable solar power.

Mount Solar Panels

Mounting solar panels properly is a crucial step to ensure your system operates efficiently. The main considerations for mounting include:

  • Choosing the mounting method – roof, ground, pole, or tracker
  • Orientation – panels should face true south in the northern hemisphere or true north in the southern hemisphere
  • Tilt angle – optimal tilt equals your latitude, but tilt can vary between 15-50 degrees
  • Avoiding shading from trees, buildings, etc throughout the day

For roof mounting, rack mounts securely attach panels to your roof without penetrating the roof surface. Make sure to account for roof pitch and direction. Ground or pole mounts elevate panels and allow tilting and rotating to follow the sun. Trackers actively move panels to precisely follow the sun’s path for maximum production. Carefully consider your climate, electricity needs, and budget when selecting the optimal mounting method.

Proper installation is also critical. Consult experienced solar professionals and follow all building codes and manufacturer instructions. With thoughtful mounting suited to your specific conditions, you can maximize solar panel productivity.

Connect Devices

Once the solar energy system is installed and connected, the final step is to plug in lights, electronics, appliances, and other devices you want to power with solar energy. This allows you to directly use the electricity generated from the solar panels. Some common devices powered by home solar energy systems include:

  • Lights – LED and CFL bulbs are recommended for their energy efficiency. Outdoor security or garden lights work well too.
  • Electronics – Televisions, computers, phones, and other devices can be plugged into outlets connected to the solar system.
  • Appliances – Certain appliances like refrigerators, fans, and small kitchen appliances can run on solar power. Choose energy efficient models.
  • Chargers – USB chargers allow you to charge phones and other small electronics directly using the solar system.
  • Water heaters, well pumps, and other motor or utility devices – Solar works well for many home utilities.

The size of your solar system and amount of sunlight will determine how many devices can be powered. Focus on essentials first, then add other devices as capacity allows. Proper maintenance will keep the solar system running efficiently for powering devices.[1] With the right setup, solar energy can displace conventional grid electricity for powering many household devices.[2]

Maintain System

Proper maintenance is crucial for getting the most out of a solar energy system. There are several key maintenance tasks that should be performed on a regular basis:

Keep solar panels clean – Solar panels can get dusty and dirty over time, reducing their efficiency. It’s recommended to clean solar panels every 1-3 months using water, mild detergent, and a soft cloth or brush. Avoid abrasive cleaners. It’s best to clean them during a cool, cloudy day to avoid streaks from quick drying.


Check connections – Over time, connections can come loose due to weathering and vibrations. Every 3-6 months, check that all wiring connections are tight and secure, and look for any frayed cables or corrosion.

Replace batteries – For off-grid systems, batteries may need to be replaced every 3-5 years depending on type and usage. Check battery levels and condition regularly. Recycle old batteries properly.


By regularly maintaining a solar energy system, it will operate at peak performance for many years.

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