Solar in Mexico

Many residents of rural Baja, Mexico have no or very limited access to electricity.

Baja has a tremendous solar resource yet solar panels can be overly expensive and distant for many. This keeps solar technology out of financial/logistical reach for many, leaving them without access to electricity. Many residents of the outlying fishing and ranching communities have resigned to living completely without power.

In addition, hurricane Odile ravaged the Baja peninsula on Sept. 14 and 15 of this year. As a category 3 hurricane, it blew 140 mph winds and dropped some 14 inches of rain in places causing widespread and dangerous flooding. It was the strongest hurricane to hit Baja peninsula in the satellite era. It left thousands homeless and desperate in its wake. This will increase the gap in access to electricity for years.

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An organization is trying to change this situation by empowering local communities to create or rebuild their own renewable power in Baja, Mexico with affordable DIY solar panels.

The Green Go Solar Project teaches people how to build their own solar panels, mostly from everyday household materials.  The hands-on teaching process provides education in the basics of solar/photovoltaic technology for residents and visitors alike. The organization is demonstrating that solar is a viable and affordable alternative to running a generator or burning tires, with the end-goal of providing locally built electric power to people without light. In addition, they are using cosmetically rejected solar cells to enable residents of this storm-bashed area to create their own solar power.

The process of making solar panels is easier than most people think.

With the understanding of some basic electrical concepts and minimal resources, it’s something that anybody can do.

A solar panel is basically a series of smaller individual solar cells connected positive to negative to build a larger electrical charge.

Just like the batteries in a flashlight, solar cells can be connected “end to end” or positive to negative to create an electrical current large enough to charge a battery or run a device.

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These solar cells can be easily seen and recognized as the small blue/black squares seen in many solar panels.

The solar cell production process produces functional but cosmetically imperfect solar cells which are not used in retail-grade panels. These cells create a working electrical charge but due to their appearance, they are considered to be a by-product or waste. For this reason, these cells can be donated or purchased for pennies on the dollar.

These cells can be used to create working solar panels from recycled material. This can keep the panel’s production cost very low, making this technology attainable for virtually anybody – especially those in isolated or remote areas with access to basic tools and building material.

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A quick overview of the panel production process is as follows:

– Cells are unpacked and inspected for damage or obvious physical defect. Non-working and broken cells are separated out.

– Working cells are cleaned and prepared for the soldering process.

– The panel case is identified and prepared. Its dimensions are measured – old windows work very well.

– The size of the cell strings is measured out to fit in the dimensions of the case to be used.

– The cells are connected into longer strings with solder, connecting the positive (bottom) contact of one cell with of the top (positive) contact of the next – this begins to build voltage from cell to cell in the string.

– Cells and strings and tested through the stringing process to insure that voltage is built evenly and that all connections are correctly placed.

– The strings are laid into the case with an adhesive like silicone and tested for correct placement

– The strings are fit and connected together so the positive lead of the leading string is connected to the negative lead of the next – this continues to build voltage until all strings are connected in a snake-like pattern. This “snake” has one open positive lead on one end and one negative lead on the other. When measured, this should measure at target voltage. This voltage is normally about 19-22 volts depending on the cells, design, location, and weather.

– A “diode” (or one-way electrical current regulator) is placed on the positive wire and the case is sealed.

Once the adhesive is dry, the panel can be used to create solar panel like any other to begin producing electricity and powering someone’s home.

Please support the Green Go Solar Project and their efforts at their IndieGoGo campaign here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/diy-recycled-solar-panels-for-storm-bashed-baja-mx