A day at a solar panel making workshop

 

On the 31st of January 2015, Vauxhall Gardens Estate residents and members of London community energy groups came together for a free solar panel making and draught busting workshop, hosted by Repowering London. Within a lovely room provided by Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre individuals gathered and were given a crash course in the fundamentals behind solar energy. Following this short lecture people broke into groups to learn the art of soldering. Eric and Victoria, led the tutorial and everyone mastered the basics of connecting solar panels into circuits. All attendees were given their panels, a batch of tabbing wire and began putting together their solar panel circuits that would eventually be joined together to make two fully functioning portable chargers.

Eric, Victoria and four young people; Bradley, Carla, Hance and Mustafa, from the Vauxhall estate who are going through the Repowering Community-Energy Internship programme, lent a hand to proceedings. In no time at all we had a speedy production line of soldered panels. An army can’t solder on an empty stomach however, and it was soon time to tuck into an incredible lunch, a mixture of home made food cooked by local residents and pastries from the local Portuguese café. During lunch Action on Energy gave a talk on energy efficiency within the home and taught how to better reduce expensive energy bills. All attendees were given a free eco monitor kit to take home with them, consisting of timer plugs and a central energy monitor that allows for the monitoring of energy consumption and remote appliance control (RRP £70). Very snazzy.

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Back with full stomachs and nice bits of energy saving kit, our solar panel team returned to action stations. The next step of the process consisted of joining up the individual panels into chains of 6, followed by joining up the long chains into large sections of 18. With our solar panels fully connected it was time to begin assembling the charger kit. Each 18 panel section was placed on top of a piece of plastic EVA sheeting which was then placed within a laptop case. Finally the panels were sandwiched onto the laptop case with a piece of clear Perspex. Got it? Good. Crucially, one of these completed kits generates enough energy to easily charge a smartphone or tablet.

During our construction session Action on Energy returned with a quiz on home energy consumption, challenging us to really think about how much energy we used in our homes and how we could potentially cut that figure down. Quiz done, it was time to put the final touches to the kits, moulding the Perspex into place with a heat gun and thus sealing the panels within the case. All that was left to do was wire up the panels to a charge controller connected to a 12volt to USB adaptor and the kits were ready to roll. Each group left with their own portable solar charger kit that they could then take home and charge, charge, charge to their hearts content, all through the sun’s energy.

 

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Carla, our roving intern interviewed some of the attendees to find out what they made of the workshop:

Bradley, 17, Vauxhall

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What brought you here today?

Knowing that we were actually going to get involved with making a solar panel, which is something that I have only learnt the theory of so far.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt today?

How to work with other people and how to create solar panels.

How did today benefit you?

I feel my knowledge of solar energy has improved by learning how to actually make a functioning panel.

How has the day matched up to your expectations? 

We managed to make a working charger kit which is what I wanted and the nice lunch was a bonus.

 

Denisa, 27, Greenwich 

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What brought you here today?

The possibility to learn skills that are useful for my future and that I can explain to other people.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt today?

I have attended a workshop before and this gave me a chance to recap what I had learnt previously.

How did today benefit you?

I feel my knowledge has improved and I am more confident about teaching others about solar charger construction and solar energy.

How has the day matched up to your expectations? 

Today has met all my expectations.

 

Eon, 51, Crystal Palace

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What brought you here today?

My interest in solar energy and a desire to find out more about how it works.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt today?

All the steps I can take towards becoming more energy efficient.

How did today benefit you?

I feel I have benefitted a lot. From learning practical skills to the theory behind solar energy.

How has the day matched up to your expectations?

It has been eye opening. It was great to discover smaller scale, DIY ways we can use solar energy.

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