Solar Panel Prototypes

By this time, the panel was nearly ready for testing. Just a few things remained though. The corners needed some reinforcement, the area around the wires needed sealing, and it needed helium in it.

Prototype, Almost Done
Here it is, with the helium in it already. Easy to see, isn't it? Still left to do: Goop around the wires, which was probably not necessary, given that they are surrounded by polyurethane right under the aluminum channel, but I wanted it there for insurance. I also wanted some kind of cap for the corners, but I couldn't find anything like that in my exhaustive search of a single hardware store. So, eager to finish the panel, I bought a strip of aluminum, and cut it into triangles. The corners themselves still lacked coverings, but I didn't think that to be an utter necessity; at least the tops would have some reinforcement. I also wanted to caulk the inner edges of the C-channels.

Finished Prototype
Finished. The aluminum triangles are epoxied in place on the corners, the wires are Gooped, and all edges are caulked. Something I didn't mention yet - that little circle in the center is a small cylinder of aluminum, also epoxied in place. It provides support for the polycarbonate in the event of strong winds, hail, or whatever else might put a lot of pressure on the front. It was something else I had to make myself, cut to the right size from a larger rod.

As of the time of this writing, March 7, 2005, the panel has been outside for 4 days and nights, and has no condensation at all. It has reached 45oC (113oF) just today, with an air temp of 10oC (50oF). There is a winter storm coming sometime in the next few days. I intend to let the panel stay outside for it. I am hopeful that it will survive intact. If it does, it's going to be subjected to worse conditions - full submersion in water, weight applied to simulate strong wind, and flying ice to simulate hail.

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