Date of Award
Solar Tracking System, Hybrid Loop, Independent Sensor, Closed Loop, Open Loop
A hybrid loop, dual axis solar tracking system was developed to increase the efficiency of a stationary solar panel by continuously tracking the highest solar radiation point of the sun. The design features two systems that work to find and track the sun vector, the independent sensing unit and main panel unit. The first detects the optimal point of the sun without expending energy moving the large solar panel. The sensing unit consists of 3D printed ASA plastic parts designed to hold and move single photovoltaic cells, ultraviolet sensors, and light dependent resistors. Once the sensing unit has accurately tracked the sun the optimal point is translated to the second unit for energy collection. The second unit, or main panel system, is made of 3003 Aluminum with 1045 steel shafts that control the movement. It collects solar energy using a 50W mono-crystalline photovoltaic panel and stores it in a 12V lithium polymer battery for self-sustaining operation. The motion is achieved using four Pololu gearbox motors for the elevation and azimuth control of both the sensor and main panel units. Worm gears are utilized on all four shafts to achieve a self-locking structure that can sustain winds up to 60 MPH. An Arduino Mega 2560 microcontroller implements a controller algorithm for accurate positional feedback and motion. The proposed system will begin data collection in the spring to determine the energy gain compared to a stationary panel. A 20% increase in energy collection is the expected minimum value that will result from the use of the independent sensing unit paired with the main panel system.
Constable, Nathan T., "Design of a Solar Tracking System with Independent Sensing Unit" (2023). Honors Theses. 2696.