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You’ve probably seen a number of light-following robotics projects. Making a light detector is one of the first projects a new Arduino maker embarks on. What better way to use a light detector than to aim a solar panel at the sun? Instructables user bwitmer shows us how.

For a class project (PV Design, Appalachian State, Dr. Dennis Scanlin) I decided to try making a low cost PV (photovoltaic) tracker. Being able to follow the sun’s path through the sky can raise your solar panel system’s output considerably (30-50%), but the argon filled ones can be a bit pricey, and seem to be a bit unsteady in wind. I looked at several different designs, looked at what materials I could find, and this is how I did it.

He’s using an inexpensive purchased LED tracking unit, but if you’re comfortable making your own, that part should be fairly straightforward. What’s cool is the simple design of the hardware. The project uses a couple of bike wheels and a linear actuator to enable the movement of the panel. It looks to be relatively low-maintenance, and the bike wheels are easy to come by and should support quite a bit of weight.

Solar PV tracker


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Comments

  1. rbean says:

    OK, now that I read the instructable, I see that it’s a single-axis tracker, moving left to right. There are adjustable feet at the front for seasonal adjustment of the other axis. Nice job.

  2. ehrichweiss says:

    I’ve had an idea for a while and maybe someone would like to try it out if it hasn’t already been tried. How about using 4 magnifying lenses pointing in 4 different angles(up, down, left, right) and 4 detectors. Calibrate the whole thing so that you are getting optimal output from the panels when the 4 lenses have an equal amount of light. Once calibrated, a low light level on the “up” will mean you need to move the panel down to give it more light, etc. That’s the basic idea. The lenses are used because they will concentrate the light into a much smaller area and allow for a larger range of light intensity which will translate to better granularity in adjustment.

  3. David Alan says:

    Very cool good job on this, i would like to try this
    I have made diy solar panels that would be cool to have made my own solar panel
    and tracker this is my solar panel http://www.solarcells101.com/

    1. Crystal says:

      What resource material did you use to build your panels? I am a DIY person but a solar newbie…

  4. John Daniel says:

    This is very cool! I am going to try this with the solar panels that I just made with the kit I purchased at http://www.solarpanelsmake.com If I am lucky, my electric bill will be completely eliminated! Thanks for the article.

    John

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  6. nice project
    I had made a similar project using photoresistors to track the sun using Arduino. you can check this on my blog

    http://startrobotics.blogspot.com/2013/07/sun-tracking-solar-panel.html