A Simple Low Cost Solar Panel/cell Characterization Experiment for Senior Undergraduate Students

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A simple low cost solar cell characterization experiment has been developed for senior undergraduate students in the Department of Physics, University of Nairobi. Experiments were conducted with solar panels (also called solar modules/photovoltaic modules) rated 20 W and 40 W peak power on different sunny days on the roof top of Physics Department, University of Nairobi. It was observed that the current- voltage (I-V) curves obtained for all the measurements for each panel were comparable. The fill factor (FF), short circuit current (Isc), open circuit voltage (Voc), current at maximum power point (Im) and voltage at maximum power point (Vm) were within acceptable margins when compared with the manufacturer’s rated values, an indication of the reliability and accuracy of the method. The method eliminates the need for expensive characterization equipment like solar simulators, unaffordable by many developing country institutions. The experiment is recommended for senior undergraduate students with an interest in renewable energy as one way of introducing them to renewable energy. The experiment may also help in arousing the learner’s interest in solar energy.