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Solar Tracking Robot

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by

Zoe R

on 1 February 2014

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Transcript of Solar Tracking Robot

Solar Tracking Robot: Abstract Solar Tracking Robot Solar panels collect the most energy when pointed directly at the sun. Most solar panels are mounted in a fixed position. My project tests if a panel that tracks the sun generates more power than a typical panel with its fixed position. I predicted that by tracking the sun, more energy will be collected.

To make this comparison, I used small solar panel is used to generate the power. Multimeters were connected to the panel to measure its output. Measurements were recorded throughout several days. Some measurements with the panel in a typical fixed position, and others with the panel pointing directly at the sun. My control is a fixed position solar panel, and my variable is one that points directly at the sun as it moves across the sky.

My approach to making this comparison was to build a small dual axis solar tracker. It uses a computer and two motors to orient the solar panel to the sun. The computer updates the motor’s positions once each second.

I discovered that a tracking panel is very beneficial. On January 21st, I collected 27.4% more energy by using tracking as compared to a typically fixed panel. To expand on this experiment, I would do more research on whether the cost of including a solar tracker justifies the expense. I would also be interested in researching on the optimum way to track the sun. Some trackers use sensors, and some use mathematical calculations, like I did, to predict the sun’s position. Solar Tracking Robot: Background Research Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity
Solar panels are most efficient when they point directly at the sun
We all know that the sun moves through the sky as the day progresses
If a solar panel moves to track the motion of the sun, it will collect more electricity Solar Tracking Robot: Experimental Design To build the solar tracker, I... Solar Tracking Robot: Experimental Design To design my solar tracker, I used a 3D modeling programming called SolidWorks Solar Tracking Robot: Results I collected data three times, on December 28, January 9, and January 21 from sunrise to sunset
Every fifteen minutes, two power measurements were recorded.
The first was with the solar panel at a fixed position, pointing due south, elevated up 29°. This is the typical angle used for a stationary panel in Santa Barbara
The second used the solar tracker, automatically pointing directly at the sun. Solar Tracking Robot: Question, Purpose, Hypothesis Solar Tracking Robot: Background Research The motion of the sun is predictable given the time of day and day of year.
The position of the sun is represented by two angles, azimuth and elevation. Solar Tracking Robot: Experimental Design Solar Tracking Robot: Background Research By Zoe Reifel Solar Tracking Robot: Results Solar Tracking Robot: Directions for Future Work It is my belief that during the summer months, solar tracking will show an even greater percentage. This can be easily tested by collecting data during the summer.
Tracking adds a significant expense to the cost of a solar installation. Further research should be done to understand if tracking is beneficial from a cost point of view.
I chose to track the sun by using the time, date, and location. Sensors can also be used to perform the same task. Research could compare whether sensors or a calculated approach works best. Solar Tracking Robot: Conclusions Before conducting my experiment, my hypothesis was that the rotating solar panel would generate more energy than the stationary one.
My January 21st data table shows that a total of 12.53 watt hours were generated by the fixed solar panel.
During the same period, the solar tracker generated 15.96 watt hours.
The tracker generated 27.4% more power than the fixed unit.
The increased power produced by the tracking the sun supports my hypothesis that using tracking is beneficial in power generation. To test if more watt hours are generated by tracking the sun, I built a device that orients a solar panel toward the sun.
It included a:
Solar panel
Volt meter
Amp meter
Tracking mechanism
The first three things were purchased, then I had to make the tracker. The tracking mechanism is built using foamcore Two servo motors move the azimuth and elevation axis Last, I programmed a small computer that calculates these angles and controls the motors I wired up the circuit using a soldering iron Solar Tracking Robot: Bibliography Christiana Honsberg and Stuart Bowden. “Motion of the Sun”. pveducation.org. Univeristy of New South Wales, 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.
Wikipedia Community. “Solar Tracker”. wikipedia.org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 31 December 2012. Web. 11 October 2012.
Pattanpong Jumrusprasert. Comparing the Efficiency of Fixed and Tracking Solar Cell Panels London: LAP Lambert Academic, 2010. Print.
Chris Oxlade. Solar Energy. New York City: Heinemann/Raintree, 2008. Print.
Wilson, Kitch. Personal interview. 6 January 2013. Solar Tracking Robot: Results Purpose: Solar panels are an renewable source of energy. They also produce energy without creating greenhouse gases. US energy independence and global warming are large issues now and they will continue to grow. It is predicted that solar will be a significant source of energy in our future. Because of the importance of solar, it makes sense to attempt to maximize the amount of power that they generate. Question: Do solar panels that track the sun generate more energy than those with a fixed position? To test this, I compared the energy created between a stationary solar panel and one that tracks the sun. Hypothesis: If a solar panel tracks the sun, then it will generate more energy than a stationary solar panel. Period 2 Math is used to calculate these two angles: The power a solar panel generates is measured in watts using this formula:
Watts = Voltage x Amps
The total power a solar panel makes in a day is measured in watt hours:
Watt Hours = Watts x Hours
To evaluate whether a solar tracker is beneficial, the number of watt hours it generates is compared with a stationary panel ?
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