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Experimental Solar tracking


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SkyMan

For a while now I've had a single solar panel on a Micro Inverter on the roof of my dog kennel which pitches bit south.  Last month I had to move it to the north side of the house for the summer sun.  I've noticed about 1.5 KWH/day improvement in my electric bill.  So maybe p5500/year savings.  I'm now considering a dual axis solar tracker to maximize the output of a solar system.  To see what the effect would be I've made up a manual single axis tracker.  We have an alig-ig (sand sifter) we aren't going to need for a few months so I anchored the legs and took off the cross piece the sifting screen hangs from.  The attached a piece of GI pipe to the back of the panel and rested it on top between a couple nails on each side.  Then a couple tie wires to the corners allow adjustment of the angle.  I go out and adjust the angle ahead of where the sun is to let it pass over.  At night it points straight up in case the winds come up.

IMG_20170509_100117.jpg.ffe9b5a421f8a849ebe32acbcefb87b4.jpg

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For a while now I've had a single solar panel on a Micro Inverter on the roof of my dog kennel which pitches bit south.  Last month I had to move it to the north side of the house for the summer sun.

Looks like you can get that inverter from lazada http://www.lazada.com.ph/600w-18v-on-grid-tie-inverter-mppt-pure-sine-wave-inverterdc105-28v-to-ac190-260v-solar-power-micro-inverter-intl-1843296

When buying eBay products from them, I have found they are more concerned about their rating, and making sure the customer is happy, than they are about the money. They have sent me refunds before, af

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Woolf

So you manually adjust the tilt of the panel east/west every hour or so?

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SkyMan

Yes, maybe every 2 hours.  This is just a temporary experiment to see see the real world value of improved (but not full) tracking.

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SkyMan

Well, I've been tipping the panel 9 days now.  As luck would have it, the first couple days it was rather overcast.  Then for 3 days my wife went laundry crazy and washing machine was going load after load.  So between the washer itself and running the water pump, and me doing some welding, our usage went up maybe 2KWH/per day which is even above the average usage we had prior to installing the panel when it was just laying on the roof.  Last 4-5 days have been pretty normal usage though, and the average daily usage for May (last reading May 5)  is below that of prior months when the panel was just laying there.  It would take a few months averaged to get a feel for how much of an increase the manual tracking is helping and I'm not sure how long I plan to keep tipping it, but it looks good so far especially considering the high use days there..

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SkyMan

I'm already pleased with the results so far.  I started the manual tracking on the 9th so 4 days into the monthly cycle.  Then there were 3 high use days and 3 days we spent on Panglao with no tracking, just pointed up.  After going over my data closer I believe the 250W panel just pointed up provided about 1.9KWH/day and now with manual tracking (even with the mentioned deviations) I'm getting a further 0.57 KWH/day.  So, I've got 4 320W panels and micro inverters on order.  And that should be enough to give me a net negative meter reading for the month.  So, while I await the arrival of the new equipment, I'll be doing some paperwork for VECO who I read in some article will pay p5.6/KWH produced.  If that works I may then consider a larger system.

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Oz Jon
2 hours ago, SkyMan said:

I'm already pleased with the results so far.  I started the manual tracking on the 9th so 4 days into the monthly cycle.  Then there were 3 high use days and 3 days we spent on Panglao with no tracking, just pointed up.  After going over my data closer I believe the 250W panel just pointed up provided about 1.9KWH/day and now with manual tracking (even with the mentioned deviations) I'm getting a further 0.57 KWH/day.  So, I've got 4 320W panels and micro inverters on order.  And that should be enough to give me a net negative meter reading for the month.  So, while I await the arrival of the new equipment, I'll be doing some paperwork for VECO who I read in some article will pay p5.6/KWH produced.  If that works I may then consider a larger system.

Hi Skyman,

I'm pleased to read that you are getting worthwhile results from manually aiming your solar panel.

Manual adjustment is a bit tedious - It's not too difficult to automate the tracking - I'm helping one of my tech friends with the electronics to build a somewhat similar solar reflector tracking device in Melbourne. [We are members of a microcontroler enthusiasts group based in Melbourne]

He is using a Raspberry Pi (Rpi) microcontroller for the "smarts" and a few cheap medium power stepper motors driving screws to do the adjustments.

An Arduino Nano3 microprocessor ( less than $4 from China ) could provide enough "smarts" to do the job, but he is using a more expensive (around $50+ with accessories) Rpi because he wants internet connection and a few other more complex capabilities too.

To track the sun, you can use a sun "azimuth/elevation equation" to let the microcontroller figure out the sun angle at any time of the day and drive the motors, or you can (much simpler) use 2 or more light sensors (10 for $3) to detect where the sun is.

If you want to explore this further, let me know - I'd be happy to assist.

Good luck with your project.

 

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SkyMan

Yes, automated tracking is the next step combined with more panels/inverters.  I was going to do a project like you mentioned with arduino or whatever but I don't really have time for that now and I want to get this going.  I bought a controller setup that handles the motor control, parking the tracker at night or in high winds.  It has a bluetooth interface so I can adjust it from my tablet.  Fancier than I need but ok.  It tracks via a light sensor unit.  It's clear plastic bubble with 2 or 3 sensors in line in each of the 4 directions.  In the middle of them is a 'table' like 1 inch square and one inch high.  if the shadow of the table moves over a sensor, the motors are driven to correct it.  I was looking at linear actuators (screw drives) like you described but there would have been a good deal of work to make it work right for this latitude.  So I'm now looking at a dual axis slew drive.  A slew drive is a motor attached to a worm gear which turns a ring gear.  The dual axis drive is 2 of those attached at 90 degrees.  Pretty easy to design from there.  The motor outputs a pulse stream as it turns so the controller can count the pulses and set a park position.

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SkyMan

How's this for an idea...

pergola-solar-pool-heater

Only make the array larger and higher and put it over the pool.  Perhaps single axis tracking.  (For me a bigger pool and therefore bigger array.)  The pool gets shade and then you have plenty of juice to run the pump, pool lights and extra to sell.  You could even heat the pool with passive solar or regular pool heater if the shade lowers the temp too much.

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Paul
14 hours ago, SkyMan said:

How's this for an idea...

I will soon be moving an array off the farm house, and mount it to a static steel support (ground mount) structure so it can face due South. (On the roof, it has been facing south-southwest since being installed in 2013.)

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SkyMan
38 minutes ago, Paul said:

I will soon be moving an array off the farm house, and mount it to a static steel support (ground mount) structure so it can face due South. (On the roof, it has been facing south-southwest since being installed in 2013.)

I believe you're at about 11 deg north so for a static mount I would angle the panels about 11 deg to the south which would put them perpendicular to the sun at noon on the equinoxes. That would give you the highest efficiency throughout the year.

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Paul
56 minutes ago, SkyMan said:

I believe you're at about 11 deg north

A tad over 13°, actually. I live in Battambang City

Now, I have to sort out keeping our cows away from the array once it is ground mounted. Maybe an electric fence.

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ugly american
49 minutes ago, Paul said:

A tad over 13°, actually. I live in Battambang City

Now, I have to sort out keeping our cows away from the array once it is ground mounted. Maybe an electric fence.

Solar powered fence?  :rolleyes:  Do you store in batteries?

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noddle
1 hour ago, SkyMan said:

I believe you're at about 11 deg north so for a static mount I would angle the panels about 11 deg to the south which would put them perpendicular to the sun at noon on the equinoxes. That would give you the highest efficiency throughout the year.

I was playing with 2 panel at home ( Tasmania ), and pointed them to the sun at noon,  my brother suggested to set them to point to the sun at 10:00AM,  since 10:00am and 2:00pm have the same angle ,  at 12 it's only at that angle once in it's travel

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SkyMan
58 minutes ago, Paul said:

A tad over 13°, actually. I live in Battambang City

Now, I have to sort out keeping our cows away from the array once it is ground mounted. Maybe an electric fence.

Put it on posts like  in the picture I posted.

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Paul
9 minutes ago, ugly american said:

Solar powered fence?  :rolleyes:  Do you store in batteries?

DC powered fence charger.

2 minutes ago, SkyMan said:

Put it on posts like  in the picture I posted.

When I saw that photo, it made me think more along the lines of a carport. :)

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