AS OXFORD’s Big Green Day Out gets under way in Broad Street today, those wishing to make a solar panel should take heed: don’t blame yourself if they break.

You need the fingers of a fairy to solder together even two photovoltaic (PV) cells, as I discovered.

National group Bioregional is delivering a Make a Solar Panel workshop in Broad Street today, and has also recently been drafted in to install solar panels and batteries at Rose Hill Community Centre and 100 surrounding homes through a special scheme, Project ERIC.

Workshop co-ordinator Charlie Fisher said: “These new renewable energy technologies highlight a realistic future in which our communities can rely on cleaner sources of energy.

“The innovative part of this is the battery storage, which is allowing residents in Rose Hill to capture sunlight throughout the day and then use it in the evening when energy-use is usually highest.”

Making a solar panel is a tricky business. A small 18-volt panel, which could be used to charge a phone or power a fan, is made up of 36 individual cells.

Each cell has a capacity of half a volt and must be soldered individually to its neighbours. One faulty cell or break in the chain could stop the whole panel from working.

Several broken pieces later, I soldered the positive and negative sides of two wafer-thin cells together with copper-core tabbing wire, a good conductor of electricity.

At first glance the results are slow. A 36-cell panel would take 425 hours of perfect sunlight to create the same energy as a kilo of coal. But as a clean source of energy and one that pays for itself once installed, it’s said to be worth the wait.

Mr Fisher added: “Part of this is getting people to lower their consumption.”

The workshop will form part of a range of activities, from discovering electric bikes to making edible hanging baskets, at the Big Green Day Out from 10am to 5.30pm.

It marks the beginning of Low Carbon Oxford Week. Events will run until June 21 raising local awareness of how to reduce carbon emissions, and celebrating some of the achievements already made by groups around Oxford.

Organiser Jenny Carr said: “The week is also bringing people into closer contact with technology to make it less mysterious, and more ‘reachable’, so they can give it a go in the future. Not everyone can put a solar panel on their house but you can understand how they work, and the point of them. Solar panels make clean, renewable energy and the investment you put in pays back.”

I eventually walked away with a one-volt pair of solar cells to call my own and triumphantly placed them on my desk. And then I broke them.