Solar tracker questions

Good day to all,

I’m posting this to this area to start the information finding process (if this is incorrect would the moderator please direct me to the correct venue?) What I have: I have 4 fairly large (so the neighborhood thinks) dual axis solar trackers that utilizes computer driven (no light sensors) controller that drives a linear actuator (pitch) and a slew drive for yaw movement. Also included is an anemometer for wind control and the whole thing is based on 24 vdc and is chronologically driven based on my latitude and longitude. The solar array is 8 260 watt panels on each tracker bringing the system potential to 8320 watts.

Why I’m here: Although the mechanical construction is good the software/hardware is making me a bit nuts and I believe that simple is good and I need for it to work if it doesn’t I want to be able to fix it. Out of the four arrays two are tracking as they should and two are not. The program is basically as follows: 1. Array is facing east (where it should be for time of year) stowed flat. 2. Array drops pitch to the appropriate angle to face the sun about 10 minutes before sunrise. 3. Array tracks throughout the day. 4. At sunset the array stows flat (90 degrees) and the azimuth swings back to east and gets ready for tomorrows sunrise. 5. Anywhere during the daily track if the wind gets above a preset limit the pitch goes to stow (90 degrees) until the wind goes below defined levels in which case it drops back to the program pitch and continues. Each tracker has 110vac for the power supply (no battery to drive anything) which supplies the 24 vdc to drive the actuator and slew drive. The only battery is on the controller board to preserve the program in the event of a power outage. There are three separate pc boards (controller, driver and I/O) I have purchased spares of the controller and driver but not the I/O (not a lot can go wrong on that)

Back to why I’m here. I have been reading on these micro (pico?) computers and I feel that the Arduino would be able to make this work better and more reliably than the current hardware plus the components are off the shelf and locally available.

My question to the group is, out of all the knowledge out there, is this something the Arduino can do? Would the Raspberry Pi be better suited? (Please don’t flame just asking) and would there be any knowledgeable members that would be willing to answer questions and provide some guidance for a noob?

My background is Military, first half flight line (BUFFs and A10s) and the second half Space Command “Flying” comm birds. After that I walked across the hall and have been working on the computers or developing satellite simulations to train the crews.

I will be more than happy to provide photos of the WHOLE setup (from ground breaking to tracking and everything in between) if interested.

Thank you all in advance John

the answers you seek are here

http://www.cerebralmeltdown.com/arduino-sun-tracking-heliostat-program-documentation/

unfortunately, on this list, many will ignore your request and tell you to do tracking some other way. what is ironic, is that if you wanted to use light sensors to 'track' the sun, many would tell you to use a planetary positioning and calendar to allow for cloudy days and such.

if you come saying you want to use planetary positioning, many will tell you not to, but to track the sun with light sensors. this is one of the very few topics that draws these 'do it the other way' responses.

but, what you have offered is VERY workable with an Arduino.

if you have any specific questions like how to power a motor, the responses will be extremely helpful.

In principle the simplest Arduino has the computing power necessary to do the altitude/azimuth calculation, control the steering mechanism and read the sensors.

However, in practice there are some considerations:

-Arduinos are intended for experimentation and learning, with loose wire and breadboard construction. For reliable operation with an expensive installation, you would definitely want a self contained circuit board.

-An additional reliability concern is that many Arduino code libraries are far from reliable and some perform very poorly.

-You need to completely understand how the motor controllers work, and additional circuitry may be required to interface with the Arduino.

PS: 8 x 260 watts = 2080 watts

Hi, I echo the other two postings, I'm on the side of solar radiation detection for panel angle. However you will need to get the data on the hardware that you have available so that interfacing can be done reliably.

Tom.... :)

Out of the four arrays two are tracking as they should and two are not.

Have you done any troubleshooting to find out what is different between the working trackers and the non working trackers? Could be just a lose wire or similar.

Hi, Do they all know what day it is?

Tom.... :)

dave-in-nj: the answers you seek are here

http://www.cerebralmeltdown.com/arduino-sun-tracking-heliostat-program-documentation/

unfortunately, on this list, many will ignore your request and tell you to do tracking some other way. what is ironic, is that if you wanted to use light sensors to 'track' the sun, many would tell you to use a planetary positioning and calendar to allow for cloudy days and such.

if you come saying you want to use planetary positioning, many will tell you not to, but to track the sun with light sensors. this is one of the very few topics that draws these 'do it the other way' responses.

but, what you have offered is VERY workable with an Arduino.

if you have any specific questions like how to power a motor, the responses will be extremely helpful.

dave-in-nj: the answers you seek are here

http://www.cerebralmeltdown.com/arduino-sun-tracking-heliostat-program-documentation/

unfortunately, on this list, many will ignore your request and tell you to do tracking some other way. what is ironic, is that if you wanted to use light sensors to 'track' the sun, many would tell you to use a planetary positioning and calendar to allow for cloudy days and such.

if you come saying you want to use planetary positioning, many will tell you not to, but to track the sun with light sensors. this is one of the very few topics that draws these 'do it the other way' responses.

but, what you have offered is VERY workable with an Arduino.

if you have any specific questions like how to power a motor, the responses will be extremely helpful.

Thanks Dave there is a lot of good info there.