Alternative Energy Solutions - Solar Tracking System
In order to maintain a highest rate of the reception of sunlight, it is necessary to introduce a solar tracking system into a solar power generation system.
There are three common methods that can be used to implement a solar tracking system, i.e. time-based control method, sunlight intensity comparison method and the space-time synchronization method. Time-based control method works with a simple principle. However there are difficulties that lie in the setup job of the system and the control accuracy is not good enough. Sunlight intensity comparison method features high accuracy, simple circuit and easy implementation, but doesn’t perform well in cloudy and gloomy days. Space-time synchronization method has a high control precision and excellent adaptability, but needs a complicated software system to support the hardware. Therefore the control methods should be selected according to the practical requirements.
According to the mechanisms used to change the facing direction of solar panel, solar tracking systems can be divided into single-axis and dual-axis systems. Single-axis solar tracking system can only track the sunlight by rotating around a fixed horizontal axis, while dual-axis solar tracking system can rotate about two axes, i.e. X and Y axes to ensure the sunlight always hits solar panel vertically.
Dual-axis solar tracking system is composed of photoelectric sensors, wind speed sensors, sunlight intensity sensors (photo sensitive resistors), signal processing circuit (comparators, amplifiers and ADCs), microcontroller, optocouplers, motor drivers and stepper motors, keyboard, LCD display, memory, and power management. Photoelectric sensors monitor if the sunlight is vertically hitting solar panel.
Wind speed sensors are used to detect wind speed. When wind speed is greater than the preset value, the system will carry out a protection mechanism. Sunlight intensity sensors detect the change of sunlight intensity, so that the system can determine which control method should be used for current weather conditions or season.
Microcontroller is the system’s core device used to process input signals, implement control algorithms and give control instructions. Keyboard is used to control the system manually and configure system parameters. LCD display shows the information such as system parameters and running status. Stepper motors drive solar panel to always face the sun straightly. To achieve the task of system control, a PLC or a MCU/DSC can be used in the system design.