Meet my solar panel~

Aaron Cake’s Converter

I decided to start my experiment by figuring out how to convert the power my solar panel will one day generate into usable power for my daily activities. First stop: the DIY version at the web link above. Um, yeah. Way over my head (and it seems it’s over everyone else’s on that site too. It’s their most popular “help” topic!) Makes spending $75 for the version from the store seem all that much more attractive. I think I’d blow up at least that much in equipment trying to get this to work. For all of you electro-philes out there though, this is a nice site with descriptions of tons of gadgets I could never hope to successfully build.

When I picked up my solar panel, which the guy gave me with the caveat that it wasn’t working due to a voltage drop, he suggested that maybe I could slice apart the panels and charge smaller batteries instead. Since my goal is still to use them as a whole, so that I can deal in 12V current and not have to create a voltage understanding nightmare (this statement alone may proclaim me an electronics newbie, I have no idea), I decided to give the panel a good looksie and see what there is to work with. The panel is composed of about 18 individual panels, set up in a series circuit. Here’s a little diagram:

The Circuit

They output to a little box on the back with two wires. One for each battery terminal, I have to assume. The clear vinyl(?) covering on the panels has started to peel back, and the aluminum frame is disassembled from where the former owner tried to attack the voltage drop problem. Around the edges is a strip of what looks like aluminum foil, keeping all the layers together. So, first thing I did was get rid of it. Sure hope that’s not part of what makes it work! Next to go will be the clear covering, once I find a suitable replacement, because it’s dirty and peeling. Any suggestions on a good material?

I did receive an auspicious sign this morning, one that let me know going solar is definitely in my future: As I was walking down the street, thinking about what the best use for that panel would be, someone had put a roll of solder wire on top of their trash can for the taking. In city-slicker Los Angeles. Oh, joy! If you think dumpster diving is wrong, well, you and I probably won’t have much in common. I take my blessings where they come, and finding free and recycled parts for my experiments is definitely always a big one. So, the rest of today will likely be spent digging through my toolbox to find my old soldering iron. Looks like this solar panel’s gonna get a make-over after all! See you soon~


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