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Effect of temperature on a solar panel - results

Carrying out the experiment

I tested all the tracking and data logging software routines before running the experiment outside with the real tracker hardware.I setup the equipment outside once the day began to warm. This was because I tried to setup before dawn and things began to gather dew. First I manually set the tracker to the "full East" position then, I turned on the automatic solar tracker software. There was little movement at first and the tracker locked on the sun. The whole experiment worked very well. Since I managed to find a clear day, one with very few clouds and wind, all went as expected. However, I do not know what might have happened under other conditions.  There were no anomalies.

Results and answers

  1. The panel showed no output power loss due to temperature. The ambient temperature for the day was not tracked or monitored.
  2. This question is open for all to experiment with. I did not get the chance to see what would happen on a cloudy day. I do know it will not work if the wind blows it over. It may burn up the motors since the panel cannot move and hit the limit switches.
results

Figure 1 results of experiment

Results and answers

  1. The panel showed no output power loss due to temperature. The ambient temperature for the day was not tracked or monitored.
  2. This question is open for all to experiment with. I did not get the chance to see what would happen on a cloudy day. I do know it will not work if the wind blows it over. It may burn up the motors since the panel cannot move and hit the limit switches.

Appendix:

Section 1 : Detailed parts list and Diagrams

  • DrDAQ educational data logger
  • External Temperature Probe
  • Personal Computer
  • LabVIEW Software Version 5.0.1 or later.
  • Mechanical Panel Interface with 2 limit switches (design not included).
  • Solar Panel.
  • Electronic Control Board
  • Intel 2732 EPROM
  • UNL2003
  • 3 x 9 V coil DPDT relays.
  • 7805 voltage regulator
  • 10 kΩ resistor
  • 1 kΩ resistor
  • 3 x 0.1 mF capacitors
Block Diagram of circuit

Figure 2: Block Diagram of circuit

voltage MUX

motor control

motor limit detect

digital decoder

Section 2 : Additional photographs of the experiment

All photos taken by Jon Tower… Thanks Jon.

Colton is gathering data from the laptop. Notice, he has his own camera.

Box to the right of the tracker is the serial to digital converter box. The box forward and to the left is the box that houses the DrDAQ. Notice the light pipe going from the box to the tracker.

Colton presses the start button.

Close-up of the set up. DrDAQ is in the black box to the left, Electronic motor control in the middle, Serial to digital converter on the right.

Close-up of the set up. DrDAQ box is open

Teachers’ notes

As indicated above, you will need students with electronic circuit and programming experience. It took me close to two months (part-time of course) to carry out the experiment. This is a GREAT project for a team to do. It is naturally divided up into three separate items. The first item is the electronics, the second is the mechanical panel interface, and the third item is the software. I was able to build up each item individually, then integrate all three together once each item was complete. Using LabVIEW and the DrDAQ, I was able to code much of the project without the overall project being complete.

I used a lot of simulation of hardware to test the software and its branching. Most of the items used for the experiment were donated by OASES, a local not-for-profit organization for the education enhancement of all. Please check with any local colleges or technical groups in your area to support you project as well. They are a great source of miscellaneous items and knowledge.

Software Description

Open report file.
Initialize RS232 port
Wait 1 second

Wait_Quarter_Hour
       Wait for minutes to equal 00,15,30,45
       If minutes not equal to 00,15,30,45 then goto Wait_Quarter_Hour
       Else then goto Gather_Data

Gather_Data
       Output 00 to digital control (MOTOR = OFF,V=PANEL,CHARGE=ON 00)
       Wait 500 msec for relays to close.
       Read DrDAQ Panel Voltage multiply by 10 to scale back to proper value.
       Read DrDAQ External Temperature.
       Read DrDAQ Light. Save reading for later to determine if panel need to move
       Output 11 to digital control (MOTOR = OFF,V=LOAD,CHARGE=OFF 11)
      Wait 500 msec for relays to close.
       Read DrDAQ Load Voltage, multiply by 10 to scale back to proper value.

Write Data to report file.

Wait_Quarter_Hour_Over
       If minutes equal to 00,15,30,45 then goto Wait_Quarter_Hour_Over
        Else then goto Move_To_Light

Move_To_Light
        Output 01 to digital control MOTOR = ON,DIR= FOR,V=BATT,CHARGE=ON 01
        If light is less that 50, and Limit switch is OPEN then goto Move_To_Light
        If light is greater than 50 or Limit switch is shorted (closed) then Goto Motors_Off.

Motors_Off
       Output 11 to digital control MOTOR = OFF,V=LOAD,CHARGE=OFF 11

Routine_End_?
       If Limit switch is shorted, or Stop button is pressed, then goto End
       Else, goto Wait_Quarter_Hour

End.

I will email you the LabVIEW source code if you request. 

Good luck and feel free to contact me for questions. robert.c.bowen@gte.net

Pico would like to thank Robert Bowen for submitting this experiment.

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