Scientists in Mauritius have developed a solar tracker prototype that increases power by about 37%. The device uses a simplified and mechanical tracking system.
The researchers describe the tracker as a low-cost device that uses a simplified and mechanically controlled tracking mechanism. It can be connected to a single solar panel and is able to direct its linear displacement to each of the four corners of the module and make it rotate along three main axes. Powered by DC motors, the power screw arrangement enables movement of the locator.
“The motor coupler was used as a connector between the DC motors and the lead screw,” they said. “The lead screw pitch and diameter data were 1 mm and 8 mm.
With the direction and rotation speed of the motors, PV system owners can achieve their desired tilt angles by precisely adjusting each angle of the solar panel.
“For smooth operation of the solar tracker, four linear actuators were connected to the main stage, considering a ball joint system based on 18 mm diameter aluminum balls,” they said. “In order to protect the engine components and the electronic circuit from unfavorable weather conditions, a light protective case was used, which was made of aluminum composite panel (ACP) or alucobond. The cross-section and height dimensions of the protective case were 25 x 25 cm and 20 cm.
The system moves the panel according to the position of the sun based on the sensor data sent and processed by the Arduino Uno open source microcontroller, which monitors the voltage difference observed in the corresponding paired sensors due to the variation of the light intensity.
“The paired motors work in sync, but in opposite directions, to produce a tilting effect on the solar panels,” they said. “To achieve optimized orientation on the three main axes, the remaining two motors also operate in the same way to compensate for the tilting of the solar panel according to the variation in light intensity detected by the two additional sensors.”
The academics built a system prototype with a solar module measuring 450 mm x 170 mm and rated at 22.5 W. According to the research team, the system was able to produce 37% more power than a reference panel without a tracker.
“The proposed device is predicted to produce a total energy output of up to 8100 Wh if used for 12 hours over a 30-day period and if it reaches the set maximum output target of 22.5 W.”
The team described the device as “An Inexpensive Solar Tracker to Maximize Solar Energy Harvesting in Tropical Countries,” which was published recently Energy reports.
“The cost analysis and portability test showed that the final designed system met the objectives originally set in this study,” they said.