Solar trackers can increase power generated by a solar panel by orienting the panel towards the sun throughout the day. This decreases the amount (and cost) of PV required to generate a given amount of power. While we mainly see trackers implemented on utility-scale systems, there has been an explosion of small-scale tracker prototypes online. If you have an idea for a tracker or an ideal application that you’d like to deploy a tracker, email us at diy@voltaicsystems.com. Our main concern is that the complexity and cost overwhelms the incremental power, but we’re for anything that can lower PV requirements of an application.
Circuit Driven Approach
MTM Scientific offers their “Deluxe Solar Tracking Circuit Kit”, for $61.50. This circuit includes uses photocells to detect the location of sun and a motor to adjust the position of the panel. This is for the more technological savvy customer, but is tested across a number of implementations. A low wattage 12V or 24V panel will operate this motor in sufficient sunlight, and instructions are included in this kit for recommended setup. Two of our 6Volt panels in series could be used to drive the motor. Motor, solar panel and mechanical parts are not included.
mtm solar tracker
2 Panel Method
This solar tracker, claimed by the designer to be, ‘as simple as building a birdhouse’, is quite elegant. A small solar panel drives the solar panel forward as the sun moves across the sky but never gets ahead of itself. This simplistic setup requires no electronics, the only parts required (not including small solar panel) can be found in your standard LEGO set. This is a great example of a DIY project, and could be well suited as a demonstration or lab project for a high school science class. As the panel tracks the sun’s path across the sky, it can charge a rechargeable lithium ion battery or it can be wired directly to an appliance requiring DC power. The mini panel can be taken off a garden light or purchased here and any of our 6V panels could be used for the larger panel.
lego solar tracker
Timer and Clock-Based
Many tracker designs use a timer-based approach. This Instructable uses standard spring wound wall timer, a small 12 W solar panel. A lead acid battery pack with an internal charge controller, that matches the voltage of the panel, acts at the power storage unit, and can purchased at Powerstream.com.
solar tracker
For more solar trackers, search on Instructables for “solar trackers” and you will have plenty of ideas to keep you going.

2 Responses to Small-scale Solar Trackers

  1. Pingback: Small-scale Solar Trackers & A DIY Solar Bicycle Rack - machine quotidienne

  2. Roland McIntosh says:

    Nice post. I especially like José Pino’s semiconductor-less version. The source page for that project is here:
    http://www.josepino.com/?simple_sun_tracker

    It would also be interesting to see a collection of small-scale maximum power-point tracking (MPPT) links, if indeed small-scale MPPT exists.

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