I scoured the gambit of solar panel manufactures looking for an affordable solar array in the 10-watt range that was lightweight, robust, and inexpensive. These panels are for use by my freshman this semester for their MEEN 1110 design-and-build project. They must work in teams to create a solar-powered winch that drags a substantial bronze statue 25 meters along a concrete surface.
This project would be difficult for advanced students, even if they were allowed to use batteries instead of solar cells to provide power to their winches. For freshman, it is going to be a battle. The project is made more challenging by extreme budget limitations for materials. If any corporate sponsors out there would like to support UNT’s solar-powered winch freshman design-and-build project, I am happily accepting donations!
With only $1,200 to buy sixteen solar panels, each with enough juice to pull a bronze statue, my choices were limited. Options included 10-watt modules from AEE Solar, Uni-Solar, SunTech, and CDT. Analyzing these products using key parameters including price-per-watt and power-to-weight ratio, the CDT-10W panel blew away the competition at $7/watt and about 3 watts/pound.
The panel’s manufacturer, CD Technology, was a pioneer in the CD-ROM industry, and in 2006, they founded their CDT Solar division. UNT now owns 17 of these panels (16 for the students and one for me to play with), and so far they are an excellent product. They perform as advertised, both under sunlight and artificial light, and have stood up to abuse from students.
For tinkerers or hobbyists interested in getting hold of an inexpensive, small-scale solar panel for projects, the CDT-10W is an excellent choice. For different applications, CDT Solar offers a range of economical solar products in a spectrum of peak-power ratings: 1, 5, 10, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, and 175 watts.