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The purpose of this report is to present the final version of our design, which is a proof-of-concept regarding whether it is viable and beneficial to create a system that allows solar panels to track the sun in order to increase efficiency. The final design went through some changes compared to the version proposed in the Preliminary Design report, which are a reduction in a motor and a direction of rotation. This was due to the fact that it would have been difficult to safely mount our initial design to a rooftop. Our final design is much safer to put on a rooftop and can fit more panels per rooftop.
The final design was evaluated using several tests to ensure it meets all the requirements and constraints proposed. The results from the tests indicated that the final design was able to meet six of the requirements and came close to fulfilling the seventh. The final design satisfied three main requirements, including the weight limit requirements for Texas residential roof, the motion mechanism can rotate freely at 180-degree, and the tracking subsystem was able to track the sun accurately within 10-degrees. The final design also satisfies three out of four additional requirements, which are needed if the design is applied in the practical scenarios. Specifically, the product was able to handle 60mph wind, resist water and dust ingress following code IP54, and pay off within 10 years if two or more panels are used according to the result of margin cost-benefit analysis. Because multiple solar panels can be rotated based on measurements from a single tracking system, by adding more panels to the rooftop our design can pay off the increased costs. The fourth additional requirement is the ability to function within a range of temperatures experienced by Texas rooftops. Our design failed to meet the temperature requirement of operation in temperatures between -23 to 160°F because of the servo motor’s ambient temperature specifications (5-158°F). We found out that this is unavoidable in this price range for the servo motors. And purchasing a more expensive servo motor to meet this constraint will fail the requirement of paying off within 10 years which the team deemed as a more important requirement, and it is rare for a Texas roof to reach temperatures below 5°F.
Overall, the final design can be considered as successful since it meets the project objectives and most of the requirements.
Dailey, Chris; Nania, Julia; Pham, Lucy; and Wright, Joseph, "Sun Tracking Solar Panel (STSP1) Final Project Report" (2022). Engineering Senior Design Reports. 57.