It’s a long process, but the result is worth it.
Solar panels are one of the most widely built and installed renewable energy sources in the world. Capable of turning sunlight into usable electricity, they are very useful things.
But, have you ever wondered how exactly they are made? Let’s find out.
Step 1: Preparing the main components
The first step in the process is to cut and process the plastic sheet components of the solar panel. These are supplied from the factory in large rolls which are then dragged through a special die-cutting machine which divides the roll into sheets of equal size.
These sheets are then stacked on top of each other, ready for the next phase of construction. These cut sheets will form the main part of the back sheet for the entire composite structure of the solar panel.
With that done, the next step is to prepare and arrange the solar cells. These can be purchased from the factory off-the-shelf or built-in on the factory floor.
In all cases, each solar cell is taken from its storage unit and placed on a special conveyor belt using a robotic arm. This arm delicately grasps each panel and places it on the carpet with great care so as not to damage them.
From there, the cells are arranged in rows using another special robotic arm that connects the cells with lengths of wire. Yarns are fed from large yarn drums fed separately into the machine.
Once complete, the cells are then passed to another part of the machine where they are treated with high intensity light to fuse the threads to the cells. This done, the cells are then moved out of the machine ready for the next phase of construction.
Other parts of solar panels are also prepared like EVA encapsulants, glass cover and frames.
Step 3: Assembly Begins
Once the main components are ready, the next step is to begin the assembly process. First, the plastic back sheets are laid over a layer of EVA encapsulant sheet.
With this done, rows of solar cells are then carefully placed on the EVA backsheet/composite using another special robotic arm. Rows of solar cells are thus added until the entire surface of a panel is covered with solar cells.
Having done this, the engineers then check the solar cells and complete the electrical connections between the solar cells if necessary. To do this, the panels are illuminated with artificial light and are welded as needed.
Once complete, another layer of EVA encapsulant is added to seal the solar cells.
Step 4: Complete the solar panels
Once done, the solar cells and encapsulants move on to the next phase of production. This requires the unit to be covered in tempered glass on the “sun side” of the panel and enclose all parts inside an aluminum frame.
This is achieved using a mix of automated machines and human workers.
Once this is done, the panels are then carefully maneuvered by robotic arms and quality checked as needed. This done, the panels are then taken out of the machine ready to be finished.
One of the last processes to complete is the installation of the junction box. This is handmade by experienced engineers.
Having done this, the last step is to carry out a final quality control of the solar panels before certifying them ready for use. This is done using a special set of sensors and computer software to scan the entire surface of the panel and look for defects.
If none are found, the panel is given the green light and is then ready to be boxed and shipped ready for installation.
If you enjoyed this little insight into how solar panels are made, you might like to watch another industrial process in progress? How about, for example, seeing how waste is transformed into new plastic bags?