How to calculate solar panel output

Written by jordan gaither
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How to calculate solar panel output
A digital multimeter (electronic multimeter image by Albert Lozano from

Adding a solar power source to a gadget is becoming more and more desirable, but it's imperative that you be able to calculate the output of the solar cell, to avoid over- or under-powering your device. Unlike traditional power sources like batteries, solar panel output is affected directly by how much light is available, and is constantly in fluctuation. Luckily, you can test the output of a solar panel fairly easily, with a single, easy-to-find tool.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Digital multimeter with alligator leads

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  1. 1

    Locate the positive wire coming from your solar panel, denoted by the "+" sign at the wire's connection point to the panel itself. Clip the multimeter's positive lead to the stripped end of this wire.

  2. 2

    Locate the negative wire from the solar panel, denoted by the "-" symbol where the wire connects to the panel. Clip the multimeter's negative lead to the stripped end of this wire.

  3. 3

    Turn on the multimeter and set it to read volts. Place your solar panel in a consistent source of bright sunlight, and record the output displayed on the multimeter.

  4. 4

    Compare your recorded output with the rated efficiency of the solar panel to determine your solar panel's actual output.

Tips and warnings

  • A shifting or dim source of light during testing will result in a lower efficiency rating. Make sure you cell is getting the maximum amount of light possible.

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