$7 Panel Update

Curt wants to cover a motorhome shed with these modules. Great idea! I have suggestions on implementing that and an update on performance. Here’s a hint…they’re great!

They are not too fussy about leaves and clouds, giving the great potential for a carport cover. They won’t seal out the rain completely, but I think you can get pretty close to it.

A material Courtney and I used on his Solar Pergola project in 2016 (above) would be ideal for Curt’s carport: greenhouse channel. Bet you never heard of it! Think of the capital letter H, but with two crossbars. Now turn it sideways and stretch it very long. OK, maybe that isn’t working for you, but the stuff is an H-channel extrusion of clear polycarbonate or LEXAN(tm). Courtney’s panels were laminates, without the aluminum frames, much like these $7 panels made by first solar. (These laminates are pictured in the image above, not the $7 panels) Just slip the panels into the channels. In the area between the double crossbars, a no-man’s land between the channels, the occasional screw and fender washer will keep things secured to the purlins.

Slip the panels into the channels on the side. Use a screw and a stainless fender washer through the center section.

These 70 watt panels are a bit larger per watt that the framed panels you usually see, so one pallet of 50 should be plenty for a carport, leaving a few extras in case you should get careless.

It is kind of hard to see something that is clear! The washers are on the centerlines of the channels and if you look closely you can see a hint of the channel over the edges of the laminates. The $7 panels should work great this way.

The output is around 90 volts, so you’ll end up with a number of daisy-chained strings. For a battery system, you will do well to simply connect them all in parallel.

The black horizontal panels on the right are the actual $7 panels. I did not use the original clamps or the greenhouse channel as this was to be a quick experiment and I cracked a couple of them. They still work fine. Don’t crack yours…use the channel.

I know that I have promised some comparative data for the ones I installed at the Solar Shed, but “stuff happens.” I have taken data sporadically and can assure you that they perform very well, exceeding the performance of similarly rated poly panels.

This is the “factory” way of mounting these panels, but it would really leak in a carport application.

A carport is just one of the many things you can do with these. At a dime a watt, they are good cheap fun for all manner of projects. You will find them listed on the sunelec.com home page. Last I checked, John had enough of them to cover a small town.–Neal