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Tribes make Solar Posted at 01/19/10 - 05:35 AM

New Mexico's Jemez Pueblo tribe is working a deal to use their land for solar energy production. They will be the first Native American tribe to use solar energy as a way to make revenue.  The 3,000 members of the tribe are working to harness the energy from their 30-acre site. They plan on setting up over 14,000 solar panels. A plan is now in the works to sell electricity to outsiders from their four-megawatt plant. The completed plant would be able to power about 600 homes.

Author: Greg

Recent studies suggest that technological progress has reduced payback times to 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems.




Using Scrap Solar Cells

When buying solar cells for a DIY solar panel project, the cost of your cells is probably the main consideration. Of course you will still need batteries and an inverter regardless whether you go DIY or off-the-shelf.  If you have beeing investigating the idea, you will know that the price per cell varies a great deal.  The trick is, that there are a lot cells available with different technologies and therefore costs.  These differences can affect the design and construction of your panel.  New technology panels may not be the best solution for a DIY project, simply due to the cost effectiveness.  Much will depend on your application.  If you are looking for extra power on your farm, then the size of your panels is less important when compared to a town house, where the size and weight of the panels on your roof can be a big problem.  If you find that older technology cells are a viable cost alternative, go for it.

We have found that the best way to compare the value of solar cells is to compare the dollar/watt ratio. So, how much do you pay for solar cells?  Well, on a quick internet search we located the most commonly used type of cells (0.5V, 80x150mm) going for $290 for 100 cells ie $1.45/Watt.  With those, you could have built THREE, 60W panels, with a combined total output of 36V or 180W.  We have even seen "off-spec" blemished cells going for $0.60 per/Watt. While these will not perform to top specifications, they can be worthwhile considering.  Make sure you really understand the downsides and have good technical instructions and speak to the supplier before using such cells.

Another alternative is using scrap solar cells. Scrap cells are those broken during manufacturing, and are often sold for very cheap prices. You can save serious dollars with scrap cells, but be prepared for a lot more work and frustration in constructing your panels. You will have to solder or use conductive epoxy for connections and fiddle, but, you can build very cheap panels.
Buying second hand cells can be a blessing or a problem.  Solar cells have an effective life of about 20-25 years and their efficiency falls over their working life.  This means that a cell thats been in operation for 4 to 5 years is already about 25% though its useable lifespan.  Before you consider secondhand cells, be very sure that your dollar/watt and lifespan are worth the outlay.

If you're not into DIY, then look for a complete panel.  We found 60W panels "on special" for $180 (2.95/Watt).  Sometimes these are sold with minimum orders of more than one unit, so take care when placing any order.  Good luck with your solar project.

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