How to Build Your Own Solar Panel for Free

A wide-mouthed glass jar is the best kind of jar to use.
••• empty glass jar image by vadim kozlovsky from

Solar panels, the wave of the future in the green energy arena, can be expensive to purchase. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice efficiency for price, it is possible to build a solar panel capable of producing small amounts of electricity entirely from scrap materials (assuming you have access to a decently stocked junkyard) and tools you have at home.

Best of all, this process is quick and can be completed in less than an hour.

    Cut the flashing neatly in half and set one half aside. Place the other half directly on the burner, and turn the burner on to its highest setting.

    Let the metal cook for 20 minutes after it is finished developing a thick, crusty coating of cupric oxide. Turn off the burner after the additional 20 minutes are up.

    Let the metal cool until it is room temperature. Pieces of black oxide will pop off during this time, so be careful.

    Bend both the treated and untreated pieces of metal into semi-circles to fit the interior of the glass jar, and insert them. They should fit snugly inside a wide-mouthed glass sauce jar without touching each other.

    Mix two tablespoons of salt into enough water to fill the jar up to just beneath the edges of the copper plates. Pour the mixture in slowly, so as not to wet the tops of the copper panels.

    Carry the jar carefully outside and set it in an area of bright, consistent sunshine. Attach the positive multimeter lead to the untreated plate and the negative lead to the treated plate.

    Turn the multimeter on and set it to detect microvolts. The meter will read an electrical charge when the solar panel is getting bright, consistent light.

    Things You'll Need

    • ½ square-foot of copper flashing
    • Metal shears
    • Electric burner
    • Wide-mouthed glass jar
    • Table salt
    • Tap water
    • Multimeter with alligator clips

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