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PicoScope 5444D PC oscilloscope connected via USB cable to a silver laptop running PicoScope 6 software

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Effect of temperature on a solar panel


With the growing popularity of solar panels and their ever growing use (along with the push to get more out of solar panels) it was our desire to experiment with tracking the sun from dawn to dusk. This tracking forces the panel to face the sun for much longer periods of time. We wished to determine if solar heat would effect the performance of the solar panel. The experiment carried out here is to help us decide if tracking the sun is an efficient use of solar panels, or whether a fixed position solar panel, with no tracking mechanism, is just as efficient. Due to the amount of electronic circuit assembly this project is suited for individuals or groups with electronic circuit experience and software programming experience.

Equipment required

The following is an essential list of required equipment. The DrDAQ data logger and one external Temperature Probe from Pico Technology. A mechanical/electronic assembly for tracking the sun. I used expensive, colorful, little plastic parts purchased from a very large chain store in town (Toys-R-Us). And of course, a personal computer loaded with your favorite software. I used National Instruments LabVIEW Graphical Programming Software.

For a more details about the set up used please take a look at section 1 in the results and teachers notes.


Experiment setup

The experiment should be carried out on a clear sunny day of course. Understandably, that is why I waited for a cool fall day to do the experiment in Florida. The summer days are hot with a good chance of a thunderstorm.

The solar tracker should be setup to follow the sun from the east to the west. The solar tracker should have a good clear view of the sun from sun rise to sun set (no blockage from trees or buildings). The electronics should be in a "controlled" environment if possible. The controlled environment I used was a cool October Sunday in Florida.

For more pcitures of the experiment please take a look at section 2 in the results and teachers notes.

Questions and discussion of results

  1. What is the effect of temperature on the output of the solar panel?
  2. What might have happened if the day became cloudy or the wind blew over the solar tracker?
  3. Why did the 5 volt regulator come on immediately and stay on for the duration of the experiment?