DIY Solar Panels, Solar Suitcases, Most PV Module Makers Lack Recycling Plan Could Be a Good Thing, CA Gov. Newsome Disses Big Oil

by | May 5, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

DIY Solar Panels, Solar Suitcases, Most PV Module Makers Lack Recycling Plan Could Be a Good Thing, and CA Gov. Newsome To Oil Industry—“You’re Dead To Me, In 2045″



With all this recent talk of massive solar panel installation projects, it got me thinking? Can we regular humans make our own PV modules? After all why should we be beholden to Big Solar? Well it turns out we can, if we’re handy. The first thing you should know is you don’t have to learn electrical engineering in order to make the individual solar cells. Plenty of outlets sell them. You can buy a single, 200mA cell for as low as $1.75 up to a 20-pack of 3.6W cells for just under $80.

The second thing you should know is you don’t have to start completely from scratch. Depending on your needs, you can buy individual cells to set up a solar panel. Building your own solar panel from individual solar cells requires a basic knowledge of wiring and some materials from your local hardware shop. But guess what? That basic knowledge of wiring can be had where boys and girls? On YouTube.

That’s where I met Greentech guru, Robert Smith, aka “Hastytown.” Smith has put together a 9-part video series, taking us through the basic carpentry behind creating and building a solar panel template, assembling the cells, affixing the glass cover to installing and testing the junction box. Smith completed his 63-watt module for under $400, including the battery, charge controller, and deep cycle battery.

On the one hand, the project proves one can build a PV module for about the cost of buying one. On the other hand, Smith’s 63-watt project outputs less than 25% of a conventional 250-watt solar panel. Regardless of that, the significance of this successful and available project is underserved schools could incorporate this into their STEM programs, serving a two-fold purpose. One to educate the next generation of renewable energy workers, and providing local, clean energy for those communities. After all, once you’ve built a solar panel, you’re gonna wanna use it, right?  

DEEPER DIVE: Robert Smith, Instructables, GreenTech



All the recent talk of massive solar power installation projects prompted The Climate Daily staff to wonder about small scale, DIY PV module projects, which led us to think about STEM, which led us to ask Google “Are there DIY solar panels for BIPOC school stem programs?” And what came up #1?

Backstory: We Care Solar almost didn’t happen. Originally, its co-founder, Dr. Laura Stachel, had traveled to Nigeria in 2008 to teach best obstetric practices at Nigerian hospitals. Back then, a lot of Nigerian women and newborns were dying in childbirth. Dr. Stachel discovered that a big contributing factor to the problem was nighttime power outages at the hospitals. These led to risky, flashlight lit operations, and C-sections or cancelled surgeries, often patients died.

She reported this to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar power expert and educator. He designed a stand-alone solar system that could provide light and charging power. And fit neatly into a carryon-sized suitcase. At first, a small network of US educators supervised their students in building the solar suitcases intended for hospitals. After securing a grant, that task was delegated to a manufacturer which increased both quantity and quality of the suitcases. 

But the lessons learned by both educators and students in the initial phase of solar suitcase construction sparked big interest in continuing the program for students. So in 2013, We Share Solar was born. It’s a hands-on STEM education and global service learning program. And that’s why this matters to us: it’s Modular, solar STEM education on the go that enhances learning and trains future renewable energy workers,too.

To date, over 6,200 solar suitcases have been delivered to health centers. Over 7.5 million mothers and newborns have benefitted from solar suitcases, and they have averted almost sixty thousand tons of CO2.

DEEPER DIVE: WeShareSolar, WeCareSolar




Speaking of solar power projects: Calling all entrepreneurs! Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently conducted the first global assessment into the most promising approaches to end-of-life management for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules. PV modules generally have a 30-year lifespan. Their finding? There’s currently no plan for how to manage these assets at the end of their lifespan.

The Fifteen experts who co-authored the report put forward major recommendations such as: researching methods to reduce recycling costs and environmental impacts, while maximizing material recovery and focusing on high-value silicon versus intact silicon wafers. Silicon wafers often crack and would not likely meet today’s exacting standards to enable direct reuse. They also highlight the need for research and development of silicon purification processes.

Why having no universal PV module recycling plan matters to us is two-fold. First a dearth of policy– The authors found some countries have PV recycling regulations in place, while others are just beginning to consider solutions—could spell environmental trouble down the road.

Second, the volume of PV modules whose service life ends by 2050 could total 80 million metric tons by 2050. Plus at this moment, only one crystalline silicon PV-dedicated recycling facility exists on the planet due to the limited amount of waste currently being produced. If that’s not a big fat opportunity waiting to be exploited, I don’t know what is.

DEEPER DIVE: Solar Industry Mag,, Science Direct



Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom took unprecedented action against California’s oil industry with a pair of executive orders. The first is aimed at banning the controversial oilfield technique known as fracking, by 2024. The second, halts all oil extraction by 2045, ending in-state petroleum production altogether by 2045.

While the fracking order is significant, much more meaningful is the order to stop producing oil in California by 2045. At present, It would be the first state, and the first government on the planet, to end all extraction. There are two reasons why this matters to us. The first is it sets a national deadline. California is not only the most populous US state, it’s also America’s third largest oil-producing state. The move forces the hand of the remaining United States to transfer their energy production and use out of extraction and into renewables within 24 years. That certainty helps set markets as well as a road forward for oil workers concerned about their career futures.

And to that point, Kate Gordon, director of the governor’s Office of Planning and Research said the administration expects to release a roadmap in July on how the state will promote the kind of economic diversification that will help absorb the loss of oil jobs. likely involving job training and infrastructure development.

The second reason this matters to us is the precedent it sets. California, like all governments around the world, is trying to find a responsible path for transitioning away from petroleum. What’s implied but never spoken behind their struggle is reluctance to “just say no” to Big Oil. The California 2045 deadline can now embolden other governments to follow suit.

DEEPER DIVE: The Guardian,,