Photovoltaic cells, or solar cells, change the light energy created by the sun to electrical energy that can be used to power calculators, cars, or even satellites. It is becoming a popular source of alternative energy. A photovoltaic cell works best if it is aimed directly at the sun. The sun’s position varies both with the seasons and time of day as it moves across the sky. A solar tracker is a device for orienting a solar photovoltaic panel directly toward the sun, thus increasing the effectiveness of the panel. In this project, your challenge is to build a robotic device to follow the position of the sun.
In this project, you will design and build a rotating solar tracker. You will use a Vernier Differential Voltage Probe and NXT to measure the voltage generated by a pair of solar cells when in the presence of the sun or a strong light source. Your device should be able to rotate 360° in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions so that the light source is always centered between the pair of solar cells. Both the solar cells and Voltage Probe should be securely supported by your device so that they do not dislodge during rotation. Your device should be able to operate from any starting position relative to the sun.
You are strongly encouraged to use the Engineering Design Method and your creative imagination when tackling this challenge. The Engineering Design Method will help you develop a successful working robot. A little planning will save you time and frustration, especially when working on more complicated projects.
Sensors and Equipment
This project features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.