Solar panels are “the thing” this year, so you won’t be able to escape them, no matter how hard you try. Why just not make your own then? You need 40 3×6 solar cells with tabbing wire (check out online stores for that), some Optix Acrylic sheet: $28 (32x44inch sheet) cut in 4 (brave the risks and buy this instead of glass, wood and epoxy resins) – one should measure 16×8, while the other 16×12. Some other accessories include silicon sealant, small 3/8″ tile spacers, a few wires and maybe some rubber electrical tape.
It’s time to move to the next level: encasing the cells. You do that by putting them in the middle of the cut sheet (make sure the cells and the sheet are clean), placing a small amount of silicon at the center of the cells, turning them on the other side and exercising a wee bit of pressure when attaching them to the acrylic sheet at the base.
Continue working: you should have got the taste of it by now! With the help of silicone, it’s time to stick the cells to the Acrylic sheet, put the 3/8″ tile spacers and use some more silicone to the upper sheet to stick over the cells. After drying, you can test your cells to see if they produce 2V each and 3A of current.
You can do that by connecting them positive to negative in series, then the positive of the panel to the positive of the battery and likewise with the negative. One aspect to look out for is the battery voltage – don’t let it pass 7.2-7.5V, because it might destroy them for good. Also, you might think about covering all the edges of the solar panel with regular electrical insulation tape for protection. Congratulations: you are at this point the proud owner of a nice pair of solar panels!