Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Richard Wilk




tracking, solar, sun, power, axis


The purpose of this project was to research and develop a sun-tracking system for solar modules. Research and modeling were performed in the fall term to determine the potential increase in sun exposure obtained with a tracking system rather than a stationary array. Using hourly insolation data from the National Solar Radiation Data Base, I determined that a sun-tracking system in Schenectady is capable of increasing the sun exposure to upwards of 50%. This led to the design of a prototype tracking system, with the emphasis on simplicity in manufacturing and low cost. The tracking system designed is unique in that it simplifies dual axis tracking into a single active tracking axis. This reduces the number of drives which in turn lowers the amount of power required to track, thus allowing for more of the absorbed energy to be used as power. I proposed this project because I am interested in renewable energies, specifically solar, and wanted to apply my engineering and design skills with my passion for the environment to a technical problem in the field. It is well known that solar technology’s limiting factor is its low efficiency, and it is therefore struggling to compete with other technologies. Since I could not hope to improve photovoltaic cell efficiency in an academic year and with available funding, I sought out other ways of improving solar power output and found sun-tracking systems interesting. I gratefully acknowledge the support from the Union