SOLAR TRACKER FOR SOLAR PANEL

Solar energy is fast becoming a very important means of renewable energy resource. With solar tracking, it will become possible to generate more energy since the solar panel can maintain a perpendicular profile to the rays of the sun. Even though the initial cost of setting up the tracking system is considerably high, there are cheaper options that have been proposed over time. This project discuses the design and construction of a prototype for solar tracking system that has a single axis of freedom. Light Dependent Resistors (LDRs) are used for sunlight detection.

The control circuit is based on an ATMega328P microcontroller. It was programmed to detect sunlight via the LDRs before actuating the servo to position the solar panel. The solar panel is positioned where it is able to receive maximum light. As compared to other motors, the servo motors are able to  maintain their torque at  high speed. They are  also  more efficient  with efficiencies in the range of 80-90%. Servos can supply roughly twice their rated torque for short periods. They are also quiet and do not vibrate or suffer resonance issues. Performance and characteristics of solar panels are analyzed experimentally.

Silicon solar cells produced an efficiency of 20% for the first time in 1985. Whereas there has been a steady increase in the efficiency of solar panels, the level is still not at its best. Most panels still operate at less than 40%. As a result, most people are forced to either purchase a number of panels to meet their energy demands or purchase single systems with large outputs. There are types of solar cells with relatively higher efficiencies but they tend to be very costly.

One of the ways to increase the efficiency of solar panels while reducing costs is to use tracking. Through tracking, there will be increased exposure of the panel to the sun, making it  have increased power output. The trackers can either be dual or single axis trackers. Dual trackers are more efficient because they track sunlight from both axes.

A single tracking system was used. It is cheaper, less complex and still achieves the required efficiency. In terms of costs and whether or not the system is supposed to be implemented by those that use solar panels, the system is viable. The increase in power is considerable and therefore worth the small increase in cost. Maintenance costs are not likely to be high.