Homebrew solar tracker.

Discussion in 'Solar Power' started by Snowbird, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Well now I have the wind generator working and 2 X 75 watt solar panels lying flat on the roof you would think I had enough alternative energy, but having had exhaustive talks with my wizkid mate he has talked me into building a solar tracker.
    The basis for this is an old analogue oyster satellite system. He wants to incorporate an Arduino into it with some form of electronic compass and a GPS devise. Am quite looking forward to this experiment as it will help the system I have now in the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky.
    Do any of you computer buffs know anything about this Arduino as I am having great difficulty in pronouncing it, let alone understanding how it works.
    Its getting to a state were am constantly looking for the asprin bottle instead of the brandy bottle.
     
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  2. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    I'd never heard of Arduino but after Googling it seems that it is a type of analogue/digital hardware interface. On that basis I guess it would be possible to produce code to establish the direction from which the strongest sunlight is coming and drive a motor using that information to always track towards it.

    Given that you have a whizz kid mate I wouldn't bother trying to actually understand how it works, just leave that to him :BigGrin:

    Are you going to have a race with Hilda to see if you can sort this out before he produces his bicycle dynamo VAWT? :BigGrin:
     
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  3. Wildman

    Wildman Read Only Funster

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    it is a single board micro controller
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduino I would pronounce it "ardweeno"
    and would have to be coupled to a stepper motor. How the actual board works is unimportant, it is in short a mini computer designed for the control of external objects, in your case a stepper motor attached to the rotateable solar panel. a simple gps control program will pass information to the stepper motor via the USB board. A data table that reads the date from your computer and adds an angle according to the date and location will set a second stepper motor controlling the elevation. A reasonable understanding of computer programming will be required to write the program to pull it all together. It should be a fun project I do have a couple of stepper motors lying around someplace I think? Cannot promise I do, but will look for them.
     
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  4. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Ta for that Graham. I just don't like being in the dark, so thought some of you older wizzers would be able to shed some light on what hes doing.
    Am really looking forward to this one but am still more than a little worried to where it will all end up. If this thing works who knows what the next project will be.
     
  5. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Am impressed with your knowledge Roger. That seems to sum it up in a nutshell.
    The idea behind using the defunct Oyster dish was that it already had the motors built into it so we can do away with those.
    Regarding the programing, that shouldn't be a problem for him as he built his own water cooled computer. When I asked why water cooled he replied "Air cooled is not fast enough". Must admit he does frighten me a little sometimes, I was always of the belief that water and electronics don't make good bedfellows.
     
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  6. 1Oll

    1Oll Read Only Funster

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    Wherefore art thou Hilldweller.

    Hope Hilldweller reads this thread. Perhaps he will rise like a satellite dish to the challenge!
     
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  7. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    I must admit I was surprised when IBM introduced water cooled mainframes donkeys years ago - but they worked OK :BigGrin:
     
  8. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    Don't know about the "wizzer" but you are right he is certainly older. :Laughing:
     
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  9. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    Cheeky beggar. I'll have you know I used to be referred to as a Whizz Kid in years gone by. That's the trouble with being a pioneer, somebody is always jealous :Rofl1::Rofl1:
     
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  10. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    A LOT of years gone bye. :Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1:
     
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  11. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    Alright Granddad, just think on I'm not your age yet :Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1:
     
  12. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    I will have you know I am in the prime of life, just like a prime joint of beef. matured to perfection. :thumb:
     
  13. GJH

    GJH Funster Life Member

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    Old enough to be suffering delusions then :Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1::Rofl1:
     
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  14. Onderweg

    Onderweg Funster

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    Ken and Grahem

    Recently we visited my parents in law who live in an elderly home.

    Heard the same discussion there !!!!!!
    So guess the two of you have to be prudent

    Young Paul
     
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  15. olley

    olley Funster

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  16. Munchie

    Munchie Funster Life Member

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    I am currently doing a "delusions" course as part of my nutter upgrade. Nice to know I have grasped the concept. :Eeek:
     
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  17. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    It's not a computer problem, you don't even need a computer to find the sun, it's been illuminated to make it easy. The real problem is moving and holding a huge "sail" in the appropriate place battling all the winds we get both static and when on the road.

    Someone on here posted pictures of their frame made out of ali angle, they never posted pictures of it finished though.

    Someone doing good sales in Germany. Every other barn we passed had the roof clad in solar. There is certainly the volume of panels being made now.

    Bottom line is a choice, toss on an extra cheap panel flat, nice and rigid and secure or spend probably more in a moving array. KISS.
     
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  18. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Mornin Brian, The problem of the wind effect will be reduced by using the old Oyster that I already have. Was thinking of putting a 50 watt solar on it which is about the same dimensions as the 1 metre dish that it was designed to move and hold in position. The reasoning behind all this is that if I put 1 more solar on the roof in the flat position that would not give me the same output in winter as the tracker. In the summer I would agree with what you are saying but as the sun is much lower in the sky in winter you can lose as much as 70% of the available power by the solars being flat. My reasoning behind this system is the same as my wind generator, its an add-on as we never have hookups need to gain as much power as possible. Most of the components for this project I already have and of course wouldn't go out and buy an Oyster sat dish and then strip it down. The reasoning behind the computer system is that it can be programed to move the dish every hour as opposed to having to leave motors switch on constantly moving the dish.
    If light diodes were used the motor would be drawing the power that the solar panel was producing. I think that's what the kid said. I know that some of my projects may seem more than strange to some people but my motorhoming hobby is not just restricted to travel,I enjoy playing with them just as much.:thumb:
     
  19. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    Taken in that light the project works, but a 50W panel in winter is like a hamster on a treadmill.

    You are right to use a small micro of course no-one would do it with discretes today but the choice of compass/GPS or just seek on power developed is a choice to be made. Either way the clever bit is to use less power than a small panel will give you in the winter.

    It's been interesting lately, driving from southern Germany ( Schloss Neushwanstein ) to north, slowly things changed from masses of solar panels to the biggest/highest wind turbines I've ever seen - none moving !
     
  20. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    I drove across country to Hamburg 2 years ago, keeping away form the autobahn and noticed all the solar panels on the barns. I think I posted something regarding this some time go. I have noticed here in the UK more and more are having these fitted to there roofs. A few years ago we didn't give much thought to alternative energy as electricity was relatively cheap here in the UK compared with most of Europe. But with the cost rising constantly above inflation more are looking towards alternative power. By the way a 50 watt solar panel constantly facing the sun and at the correct angle to the sun in winter will give the same amount of power as a 200 watt panel lying flat on the roof. Don't forget am talking about the winter with this project. We use more battery power in winter and there's less sun and what sun there is is lower in the sky. Am away at the moment and parked in the same spot that I was parked on 6 weeks ago and have noticed how much lower the sun is. Even with the unusually good weather we are having am thinking that my 2 X 75 watt solars are not doing a great deal as the sun is to low in the sky.
     
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