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kevinpcox

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Reply with quote  #1 

I want to start a DIY solar panel project for people living in Haiti. I live i9n NY and work with a Haitian non-profit community focused on health and community empowerment. Very few people in rural Haiti have any kind of electricity and solar has big potential to change lives. If I can build one solar panel there in Haiti, I think many more will follow.

Any thoughts are welcome.

stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi welcome to the forum. What exactly do you hope to do?

PV (electrical) panels are not really DIY. While installing them is easy enough, first you have to BUY the equipment.

Hot air though easy isn't really necessary in that climate. Hot water, maybe.



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kevinpcox

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Reply with quote  #3 
The goal isn't hot air or hot water, because neither are needed in the climate of Haiti. It’s really just to provide some electricity to power lights, fans, or a donated computer. This is a rural very poor region in the southern peninsula of the country. These are subsistence farmers and there is no infrastructure of power or running water. People live in stone, concrete block, or wattle and daub houses with dug well water. The nonprofit I work with has a small clinic with imported solar panels and serves as a community center where people get healthcare and training. It's the only place that I saw outside the cities that have any kind of power at all. The goal is to get locally available materials and bring down solar cells and teach people there how to build a panel for their own house. Then they can run lights in the evening and possibly be able to work on donated laptop computers. I will donate my own money to get started and then run crowdfunding to get additional units built.
I have the Robert Smith Instructables DIY videos to start as a reference. I want to write out a materials list to see what is available locally and expect to have to bring the actual solar cells with me. In addition to providing a panel to homes one at a time, there is a goal to have the locals learn and build their own and possibly start their own business of providing for others. Many Haitian men I met have a decades-old motorbike they've repaired with whatever materials they have on hand and therefore seem like amateur engineers. I think that bringing solar knowledge could transform the region to make them more self-sufficient.
 
stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #4 
One or two on here have actually purchased solar cells and assembled them into a panel. My understanding is it's not as easy or cheap as it looks; maybe they'll join in. And you still need batteries and controllers.

I think it might be better to teach the locals a trade that will allow them to purchase the equipment which they can then install. If that "trade" is making the things then great. Or enable loans or investment to the same end. Once installed, the panels may enable many money-making businesses.

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Rick H Parker

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Reply with quote  #5 
The only way I can see building Solar Panels from local resources is if Haiti get a lot of Ewaste.
The small Solar Cells from Calculators, Yard lights ect., could be assembled into Solar panels.  In the US economy it is not economically viable to do so. You would need to work out the math for the Haiti economy.


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Rick H Parker
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mclark999

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Reply with quote  #6 
I was in Cambodia recently and electricity is a luxury that many villagers don't have access to. Many of them have a couple of car batteries that they transport to town, charge and return to home so they can have a couple of LED lights for reading and doing school work in the evening.

For them, a simple single panel with 12-24 volts makes a tremendous difference in their lifestyle.

I would recommend that you start with that in mind. One solar panel with a car battery storage to run some led lights.  Later they could go to a couple of panels that could also charge a laptop computer. 

Just my two watts worth, but while donated laptops are a good idea, older laptops use quite a bit of power, sometimes as much as 300 watts. New small chromebooks use a lot less power and are really quite cheap. They'd work from a car battery where older laptops won't.

Good luck with your project. I'm excited for you.



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Rick H Parker

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Reply with quote  #7 
"New small chromebooks use a lot less power and are really quite cheap."

I would question if computing would be beneficial to subsistence farmers. In many areas, a little refrigeration has more value than computing. With refrigeration the farmer does not need to rush to market and hope he can sell his produce before it spoils.  If he cannot sell it right away, any refrigeration will buy him time.  A 12V electric cooler may very well be more beneficial that a computer.

Don't make the mistake the US Peace Corps made in the 50s -60s. Imposing "solutions" that work for the developed world on third world communities, often a waste of time and resources ... sometimes with disastrous results.  It is best to look at their current system and make incremental improvements ... the idea is to help people, not make them like you. 

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Rick H Parker
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stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #8 
Computers, refrigerators...None of them work without electricity. Let's deal with that first. I'm sure the locals can figure out what to do with it.

To be honest I can't imagine DIY PV panels in enough numbers to be of any real use. 

Looking at PV prices, large 300w panels are actually pretty cheap in bulk, it's the freight that's the killer.   If a co-op could pool it's resources and buy a pallet or two, it might be a viable option.

Flexible panels are lightweight and might work.



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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
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colinmcc

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Reply with quote  #9 
I'm going to jump in with both feet and say that self assembling solar panels from discrete wafers is an almost impossible task, the wafers are so fragile and the labor/care required just to assemble an array let alone encapsulate it in some way to make it relatively long lasting is probably far greater than anyone, no matter how good their engineering skills could achieve. 

if you want to see examples then go to https://www.instructables.com/howto/solar+pv/  where there are quite a few self built panels and instructions.

I remember the first time I attended a PV class and the presenter had a stack of wafers on his desk, high end rejects from Hanwha I recall. He invited us to come up and pick one up, mine snapped in my hands and I was trying to be gentle! It was a learning experience. Now when I see factory assembled panels I realize how much it took to get from lumps of Silicon to the final long lasting assembly.

So, I'd agree with others here that you need to contemplate a group buy of panels, small ones really are not that expensive, especially if you avoid the latest types and go for old technology.

I just browsed instructables and here is a link to a guy who has combined all sorts of broken/recycled cells.. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-MAKE-PV-Solar-Panels/
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