The availability of inexpensive portable-scale solar panels, batteries, and chargers makes building a structure to support them a worthwhile project. For less than $20 and a couple of spare hours, just about anyone with a small space exposed to a few hours of sun should be able to build their own customized stand to meet some of their electricity needs.
To make the stand suitable for a particular location, (celestial) cube-based geometry is engaged and the following poses an example of how mine came out. To support would might be characterized as a doll house-sized “roof”, I took a piece of 2” X 8” lumber and chop-sawed it at the angle of my latitude (35°). In making this cut, I could use both sides for the base.
On top of the 2” thick edge, I nailed a 1” X 8” board to accommodate the panel. That is all there is to the stand’s structure which is quite easily moved to and away from a sunny spot facing solar noon for a few hours. Other considerations remain. To harmonize the base structure with its surroundings, I took the safe approach and simply followed the home’s 2-tone color scheme to make it seem like a part of it. For those who possess an advanced artistic sense, a color scheme might be chosen to distinguish the stand in a complementary way.
But paint is more than just for aesthetics. For the top sun-facing surface around the panel, a color selection is required to counter the ill effects of the low albedo panel because, truthfully, its blackness absorbs (and re-radiates) sunlight just as the much if not more than the popularly demonized carbon dioxide molecule. Luckily the antidote for this is to simply paint the surface around the panel with a high albedo hue to reflect light right back to space.
Generally speaking, the default color choice for this is (glossy) white. By painting an area white equal to that of the panel, the overall albedo of the stand’s “roof” is increased. This translates to both global and local cooling effects. Regarding the latter, I can confirm a quite a noticeable difference when handling the panel after several hours of exposure. The cooling effect around the panel also makes it run more efficiently. One can fine tune the albedo factor by proportioning exposed area to a desired ratio and/or by tinting the white with softer colors and/or creating a pattern to make the panel less conspicuous and imposing.
My half square foot, 6 watt panel with the corner ear loops cost $50 and the 5000 mAh battery is sufficient to handle my personal lighting needs, as well as being able to charge an AA/AAA battery charger to run other items like bike lights, an mp3 player/radio, and a computer mouse.
All energy sources have their positives and negatives and I believe it is fitting and wise to match each type to its use. In my view, the direct semi-conducting driven process of photo-voltaics should be applied to semiconductor devices – LEDs, computers, TVs, stereos, etc. To do so would take care of a significant chunk of the electricity usage spectrum.