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Cheap Solar Cells

A single solar panel built in this way would likely cost about $200 in materials, and you can find a pre-made solar panel with the same output for that price if you shop around.

Making Your Own

Making your own solar panels is something that can be done. How about making your own solar cells? Is that feasible? In a word,
no. Solar cell manufacture is done in clean rooms to very exacting standards, and requires specialized knowledge and some high-powered equipment to do it properly. While you can make something that will function as a solar cell without too much difficulty, even from household items (a very amusing Wired.uk article discussed how to do this from powdered sugar and herbal tea), this is not going to be a good item to make a household solar system from.

Finding Cheap Solar Cells

It is possible to buy solar cells on eBay,
Amazon and from other sources that are factory seconds and sold a good deal cheaper than top-quality cells. These solar cells produce the same amount of power as top-quality cells, but are blemished and not as attractive. They may also be more fragile and require more delicate handling when building your solar panels.

Reasons Not To Do It

Are there arguments against making your own solar panels? Yes, potentially pretty good ones. Let's assume that you have the necessary skills and equipment to solder your connections properly, and that you are making your frames out of fireproof materials rather than wood, and covering your panels with glass rather than plexiglass. (Doing otherwise presents a serious fire hazard.) The remaining problems are more
legal than technical.

To begin with, installing home-built electrical equipment, including home-made solar panels, to your home
violates electrical codes in many countries (certainly including the U.S.) and it would be impossible to obtain a permit. While it's not terribly likely you would be caught for this any time soon, it would present a problem if you have your home appraised for any reason, such as when you go to sell it.

In addition, you would not be able to use net metering to have an on-the-grid system, at least not legally and not without committing fraud. It is illegal in many countries, including the U.S. and U.K., to install non-approved power generating equipment to the utility grid.

Also, installing non-approved solar panels to make a home energy system could legally present a fire hazard and, if a fire starts as a result,
your home insurance provider might not cover the damage. Finally, tax credits and rebates for renewable home energy are not available with home-made systems.

Some of these legal problems would arise with home-made wind power as well as solar power, although wind power presents less of a potential fire hazard.

Want To Do It Anyway?

Despite all these arguments, you may decide you want to make your own solar panels anyway. Perhaps you don't want them for your home but
for some other use that is less heavily regulated by law. Perhaps you plan on making an off-the-grid system so that net metering concerns don't arise. Perhaps you are an expert at electrical welding and are certain you can produce panels that are as good and safe as those coming from manufacturers.

If you want to make your own solar panels anyway, here are some thoughts about where you can get the cheapest solar cells.

Continued below....

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Solar power has a lot of benefits over other forms of electricity generation. It's renewable and inexhaustible. It's environmentally friendly compared to electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear reactions, or even hydroelectric power. It's amenable to a decentralized application with homes sporting solar panels on their rooftops to generate their own electricity.

If you've looked into getting your own solar system at home, you probably know that, aside from the labor to install the system, the biggest cost component is the solar panels themselves. One solution to this is to make your own solar panels, but then the question takes a step back: how do you find the cheapest solar cells? If you buy solar cells at usual market prices from manufacturers or wholesalers, you won't really shave all that much from the cost of buying the solar panels pre-made, and you'll have to work pretty hard for that small savings.

Cheap Solar Cells

Go To The Manufacturer

While you can find factory-second solar cells on eBay and
Amazon if you look for them, you can get better prices and more reliable availability of you go directly to the manufacturer. Currently, the cheapest solar cells are available from Chinese manufacturers. There's reason to believe this won't be the case for much longer, however. China's government subsidies to its solar power industry have overshot the demand and are likely to be scaled back in the near future.

India May Be Next

India is pursuing solar power in a big way, and India's solar power industry is rising as a major competitor to China's. In rural areas of India, solar power is already cheaper than fossil-fuel alternatives. This means the country is pursuing solar power in a big way and solar cells may be cheaper from Indian manufacturers before long than from Chinese ones. From time to time, this may already be true.

Shop Around

In all cases, the
best advice is to shop around. With anything being manufactured on the scale that solar cells are today (and even more so in the future), good deals are available if you look for them.