It’s our goal at Voltaic Systems to provide the highest quality, small scale solar panels to our customers. Should one of our existing small solar panels not fit your needs, here is our guide to making a custom solar panel.
For more information, contact us at (212) 401-1192 or better yet, schedule a consultation with a Voltaic expert.
Voltaic solar panels have a track record of thriving in almost any environment, 24x7, 365 days a year. Our panels have been bobbing in the saltwater of the Indian Ocean, mounted on huts in the deserts of Africa, and braved the snow and altitude in the Himalayan Mountains.
Here's what you get when you choose Voltaic custom solar panels:
*To determine the panel specifications, we typically need to know:
Total power is determined by surface area. We most frequently use 19% efficient monocrystalline cells which provide about 0.019 Watts per square centimeter or 0.12 Watts per square inch. For example, the solar cell sections on this 2.2 Watt panel measures approximately 4in x 4.8in, adding up to 2.2W.
SunPower cells are more efficient, about 22%. The small silver lines are moved to the back of the cell, earning the description "back contact cells."
The advantages of using SunPower cells are:
The downside is that our SunPower panels have a laminate construction vs potted urethane which lowers the overall lifetime. Read more on coatings below.
As a general rule of thumb, we typically recommend that the voltage of the solar panel is 1.5 times the voltage of the battery. This ensures efficient charging throughout the charge cycle.
Recommended Panel Voltage
|Battery Voltage||Panel Voltage|
You might deviate from this rule if your charge control chip can efficiently convert from lower voltages to the voltage needed to charge your battery. In that case, having a lower voltage will decrease power attenuation from shading.
We create a specific voltage by stringing individual cell pieces in series. Each cell piece is ~0.55 Volts (0.58 - 0.59 for SunPower), so for the 2.2W panel shown below we used 12 pieces to create a 6 Volt panel.
We use mono-crystalline cells for their high efficiency. Traditional cells are 19 - 19.5% efficient while available SunPower cells are closer to 22%.
All solar cells are protected with some sort of coating material. For commercial solar panels, it is often glass. For smaller panels there are a number of different options.
Urethane: Highly UV resistant, but heavier than ETFE. Our standard panels have a urethane coating and last up to 10 years in the sun with minimal power degradation. The urethane coating is poured or "potted" on the solar cells and leads to a highly waterproof panel. Each individual cell is completely encapsulated by the urethane.
ETFE: Slightly less UV resistance than urethane, but lighter weight. ETFE and EVA are attached to the cells via a lamination process. With high quality materials (there is a difference in the production quality of ETFE and EVA), these panels have an expected life of 5 years outside.
Epoxy or PET: Panels made with these coatings will be inexpensive, but we don't recommend this coating as it tends to have a relatively short lifetime. They are the least UV resistant of any of the options.
Glass: Most UV resistant, but also the heaviest and can be challenging to mount in a streamlined manner.
The left images shows a) aluminum-plastic-aluminum substrate with urethane coating b) PCB substrate with ETFE coating and c) aluminum substrate with glass coating. The right image shows ETFE then glass then urethane.
The solar cells are mounted on a substrate or backing. Again, there are several options.
Aluminum-Plastic-Aluminum: Very high strength to weight ratio material used in commercial building applications. Easy to create waterproof panel. Allows embedding of screw or nut into substrate.
PCB Plastic: Different thicknesses available, from 1mm to 5mm depending on requirements. Allows embedding of knurled nut into substrate. Higher density than Aluminum-Plastic-Aluminum substrate. Not waterproof without additional hardware.
Aluminum: Typically the strongest substrate option, but is also the heaviest. Thin and rigid.
Depending on the substrate material used, we can embed screws or nuts into the panel, leave empty through-holes or simply flat backs.
Our standard wire has strain relief is about 12 inches long and terminates in a 3.5x1.1mm plug. This can be changed to whatever length and terminal you prefer. The wire can be embedded into the substrate to keep it waterproof or soldered on the outside of the panel. Power and ground wires can even be separated as shown below.
Another option is to place contact pads on the back of the panel. These can be positioned anywhere on the panel.
There are no design fees to create a prototype of your custom solar panel. Some, but not all designs may require a fee to prepare the machinery to create your specific panel at volume. This tooling fee begins at around $2,000.
Our MOQ is 1,000 - 2,000 panels. If it is a minor update to an existing panel, this may be lowered.
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