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With fuel prices skyrocketing, global warming eating away at another polar bear’s home and the air quality getting poorer – the effects of climate change are substantial. Solar energy, especially, has proven to be a popular, well-effective power source, increasing in popularity and use. But as with any good thing, there are shortcomings with the solar array system. Photovoltaic panels are oriented to harness the maximum amount of sunlight possible. However, while the sun moves along, the panels (traditionally) do not. This concern has led to the ultimate design and development solution for solar efficiency: designing an automatic solar tracking system.

We’re all astronomers when we’re living on the third rock from the sun!

We humans can’t live on Earth without the sun, the most important astronomical object in space. The sun is a big ball of fire. East, South, West, or North? The way the solar panels are placed does make a difference. It matters when you want to use the power of the sun. PV panels should be set up so that they face true south for the best solar radiation. But because each site is different, panels can’t always be put in this way. Since they have no other choice, these other orientations lead to a loss of output of 15% or more. So, finding ways to make solar energy work better is the most important part of designing and making new solar systems today.

The defining factor in solar yield and efficiency is the sun’s arc – or the path of the sun. As we all know, as the earth orbits around the sun, it rotates. During the earth’s orbit, to us down below, it appears that the sun takes an arc-like path (throughout the sky) that dictates the amount of ‘daytime’ we experience, the seasonal changes we encounter and consequently, the amount of daylight obtained.

How does the “sun’s arc” affect solar panels?

In layman’s terms, this apparent motion of the sun changes the angle at which light strikes the earth and consequently, the solar panels. Picture the angled surface of the PV panel. As the sun’s rays strike the absorbing surface in a perpendicular fashion – the power density and solar intensity is at its peak. Now, as the sun “moves”, the angle at which the rays hit the surface, changes – reducing the solar intensity on the panel.

The solution – designing an automatic solar tracking system!

Remaining fixated while the sun moves – well, that’s the panel’s main issue, right? Then let’s move the panel with the sun as it moves during the day. If we can make sure that the solar panel stays perpendicular to the sun, we can get the most energy out of it. The idea might seem simple at first. But the technology that goes into making an automatic system for tracking the sun is anything but simple.

An automatic solar tracking system is a device that adjusts solar panels, reflectors. After, the relevant optical devices in relation to the sun. They are alignment devices that orient solar collection systems for optimum energy harnessing. It possesses active sensors that tracks and monitors the available sunlight and subsequently, rotates the solar panels to maintain the maximum sunlight intensity.

There are various types of solar trackers that have been introduced. From prototypes under study and innovation to large-scale systems already well-received and used. Depending on local conditions there are two kinds of solar trackers – single and dual axis. Single axis trackers have either:

  • A horizontal axis – suited for tropical regions with high noon sun conditions and short days.
  • A vertical axis – suited for regions of high latitude with longer summer days.

Dual axis trackers utilize both horizontal and vertical axes. This allows them to wholly track sun movement regardless of region and location.

Should you get a solar tracker? Click here to read more:

A hybrid supersystem: components of automatic solar tracking systems

This amazing piece of technology is a system that uses both software and hardware. Sensing devices are an important part of the system because they measure how bright the light is and send that information to the algorithm that moves the solar panel toward the sun. Pressure, temperature, and humidity also affect the efficiency and power output of an automatic solar tracking system. Sensors are also used in this case. Other components include electrical / hydraulic positioning mechanisms, drive mechanisms and the core control unit that ties it altogether.

With technological advances, designing an automatic solar tracking system for solar efficiency, is bound to be more accessible in the future!

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