This is how solar panels are made in a factory

It's a long process, but the output's worth it.
Christopher McFadden

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Solar panels are one of the most widely built and installed renewable energy sources in the world. Able to turn the light from the Sun into useable electricity, they are very useful things.

But, have you ever wondered how exactly they are made? Let's find out. 

solar panels complete
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 1: Preparing the main components

The first step in the process is to cut and process the plastic sheeting components of the solar panel. These are supplied to the factory in large rolls that are then dragged through a special cutting machine that splits the roll into equally sized sheets. 

These sheets are then stacked up on top of one another ready for the next phase in the build. These cut sheets will form the main part of the back sheet for the entire solar panel composite structure. 

making solar panels back
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, the next step is to prepare and organize the solar cells. These can either be bought into the factory ready-made or built-in situ on the factory floor. 

Whichever the case, each solar cell is taken from its storage unit and placed on a special conveyor belt using a robotic arm. This arm carefully picks up each panel and deposits it on the belt with great care so as to not damage them.

making solar panels cells
Source: Interesting Engineering

From there, the cells are arranged in rows using yet another special robotic arm that connects the cells together with lengths of wires. The wires are fed from large drums of wires fed separately within the machine. 

making solar panels arranging cells
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once complete, the cells are then passed to another part of the machine where they are treated with a high-intensity light to fuse the wires to the cells. With that done, the cells are then moved from the machine ready for the next phase of the build. 

Other parts of the solar panels are also prepared like the EVA encapsulants, glass cover, and frames.

Step 3: Assembly begins

With the main components ready, the next step is to begin the assembly process. First, the plastic back sheets are laid onto one layer of EVA encapsulant sheet. 

With that done, rows of solar cells are then carefully lain into place on the back sheet/EVA composite using another special robotic arm. Row after row of solar cells is added in this way until the entire surface of one panel is covered in solar cells. 

making solar panels cells backsheet
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, engineers then check the solar cells over and finish the electrical connections between the solar cells as needed. To do this, the panels are lit using artificial light and are soldered as required.

making solar panels testing
Source: Interesting Engineering

Once complete, another encapsulant layer of EVA is added to seal the solar cells. 

Step 4: Completing the solar panels

With that done, the solar cells and encapsulants are moved on to the next phase in production. This requires the unit to be covered in tempered glass on the "sun-side" of the panel and enclosing all parts inside an aluminum frame. 

making solar panels frames
Source: Interesting Engineering

This is completed using a mixture of automated machines and human workers. 

Once done, the panels are then carefully maneuvered by robotic arms and quality checked as required. With that done, the panels are then passed out of the machine ready for finishing. 

One of the last processes to complete is the installation of the junction box. This is done by hand by experienced engineers. 

making solar panels junction box
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, the last step is to give the solar panels one final quality check before certifying them ready for use. This is done using a special set of sensors and computer software to scan the entire surface of the panel and look for defects. 

If none are found, the panel is given the all-clear and is then ready to be packaged and shipped out ready for installation. 

If you enjoyed this little behind the scenes into how solar panels are made, you might enjoy watching another industrial process in the works? How about, for example seeing how trash is turned into new plastic bags

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