Members of U of L’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Club–which is affiliated with the university’s Conn Center–are standing by a campus greenhouse studying two solar panels.
The solar panels don’t look like any of the others installed on buildings around town. They have wooden frames—made with used, slightly beat-up lumber—and the solar cells are floating in the middle, mounted in Plexiglas. Some of the cells are cracked, and all are cut in half and fitted back together.
“We actually got them on eBay,” engineering student Ezra Clark says. He adds that the cells are recycled, just like all of the other materials in the panels. And the club made some other engineering changes, too.
“We also changed the cell architecture quite a bit and used a low-cost method to produce them that could theoretically be done in the third world for very little cost.”
The group saved money by skipping some steps—like not using tempered glass, which helps protect the panel.
The panels cost about half as much per watt as commercial solar panels. Once they’re installed, they’ll be used to power two fans that will ventilate the greenhouse.