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Team 2 of the Sun-Tracking Solar Panels for Home Use seeks to design a residential solar panel system that has the ability to track the sun. The main objectives of this project are to design and construct a sun-tracking solar panel system that is able to maximize the amount of sunlight captured throughout a day. The following report covers the features of our complete design and its three subsystems that combine to accomplish the requirements of the sun-tracking system. The primary functions of the three subsystems are as follows: the sun-tracking sensor will read photoresistor values that determine whether the solar panel’s angle should be adjusted, the mechanical movement device will adjust the angle of the solar panel, and the electric circuit and control system will make the determination as to whether the solar panel should be shifted and by how much. Following the design overview is an evaluation of the final design through the scope of project requirements and constraints, as well as the associated tests used in assessing the overall system’s performance.

Based on discussions with the Project Sponsor, two primary constraints were identified by the Sun-Tracking Solar Panel Team. The cost of designing, prototyping, testing, and building the product is limited to a $1200 budget provided by Trinity University. The time allotted for designing, prototyping, testing, and building of the product is limited to Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters.

The final design is held to certain project requirements that will be discussed in future sections. The requirement that the solar panel system should be water-resistant through hurricane caliber rains was met with an IP-55 rated box. The requirement that the solar panel system should be windproof up to 60 mph was tested and partially met using a Fusion 360 wind simulation. When the actuators were fully extended, the system was unable to withstand 60 mph winds, though it was able to while flat and half extended. The requirement that the solar panel should be able to rest on a slanted residential roof with roof pitch ranging up to 9/12 (36.9) was met by building a makeshift roof and performing the weight test. The solar panel system was then rested on this roof. The requirement that the solar panel system should be more energy-efficient than a stationary solar panel was met. The financial requirement that the additional cost of the final product to the residential unit should be recovered within ten years of installation, however, was not met.

Looking forward, we would like to resolve the current issues preventing us from meeting our design requirements. For the wind simulation, the most likely way to resolve this would be to add a wind sensor to our design. When the wind sensor is reading above a certain value, the panel will retract to its flat state, as it is the most windproof of any tilt setting. In order to combat the financial issue we ran into, we must either harvest more energy, or lower the production cost of our system. We think harvesting more energy is the more viable option, and thus think that adding a second axis of tilt to our solar panel would be our best option.


Team Advisor: Dr. Keith Bartels