A key component in making your own panels is to decide whether or not you'll build a tracker, which will orient your panels toward the sun. This will generate anywhere between 30 to 60% more electricity. Rob Patto's LED Solar Tracker is definitely interesting, but it will complicate your overall build. Although most people would simply like to place solar panels on their roofs, the best way would be to use an LED tracker and mount the panels in your backyard so that they can track the sun for most of the day.
The DIY Solar Setup Rob Patto put together an informative guide about how he built a 12V solar setup, which is powerful enough to run an air conditioner and a fridge/freezer during the cooler months. When you are considering building your own panels, you need to carefully consider materials. It's easy to try and do things cheaply, but in the end it won't last as long. There are commercially available boards that are used for mounting pre-tabbed solar cells. Dupont makes some and they're called Tedlar. He recommends an eBay seller named Fred480V, who is from the US and has all sorts of supplies for building your own panels. In his opinion, by choosing the best materials available, your DIY panel will cost about half of what a commercial solar panel costs. It's definitely something to consider if you want to save money. Once you have the panels and the solar cells, it's time to solder the cells together. You have to be very careful with this, as the whole solar panel is only as strong as its worst soldered connection. If you're not familiar with soldering, we'd recommend a friend to help you out. You can check out his full guide here and his blog for more information about how to build your own panels.
The Home-Made Solar Panels This is a similar build to Rob's, however it uses glass as a way to mount the solar cells. The solar cells were soldered and then glued to the glass. The glass will serve as a back panel. The solar cells are sandwiched between two glass panes. The panel needs to be sealed and vapoured out. A junction box was placed in the back of the panel. Each of these panels costs about $260 to make by yourself. You can check out this guide and there's more information available here. [photos via Tegolasolare, Rob Patto, Home Build Solar System]