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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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