MOTHER's Super-Simple Solar Tracker

MOTHER's super-simple solar tracker created by Dennis Burkholder improves on Steve Baer's solar tracker design using freon.

| November/December 1977

  • FIG. 4: The collector has been facing west (left). As the sun appears on the eastern horizon (to the right), however, the freon in its unshaded tank has begun to warm and expand. This is pushing the piston down in the hydraulic cylinder and, as the contracting piston pulls on the eccentric arm fastened to the pivoted flat-plate collector, the solar collector is pulled over to face the fresh morning sun.
    FIG. 4: The collector has been facing west (left). As the sun appears on the eastern horizon (to the right), however, the freon in its unshaded tank has begun to warm and expand. This is pushing the piston down in the hydraulic cylinder and, as the contracting piston pulls on the eccentric arm fastened to the pivoted flat-plate collector, the solar collector is pulled over to face the fresh morning sun.
  • FIG. 3-A: The sun's rays warm right tank but not the left one. FIG. 3-B: As pressure builds in right tank, liquid freon is forced into left one and collector tilts in that direction. FIG. 3-C: As the collector turns more and more directly toward the sun, its left tank also begins to heat. As pressure builds in that container, it begins to accept less and less liquid freon from the right tank. Equilibrium Is achieved when the two containers are equally exposed to the sun. The system, in short, wants to automatically
    FIG. 3-A: The sun's rays warm right tank but not the left one. FIG. 3-B: As pressure builds in right tank, liquid freon is forced into left one and collector tilts in that direction. FIG. 3-C: As the collector turns more and more directly toward the sun, its left tank also begins to heat. As pressure builds in that container, it begins to accept less and less liquid freon from the right tank. Equilibrium Is achieved when the two containers are equally exposed to the sun. The system, in short, wants to automatically "lock onto" the sun and track it all day long.
    Illustration by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • FIG. 4: The collector has been facing west (left). As the sun appears on the eastern horizon (to the right), however, the freon in its unshaded tank has begun to warm and expand. This is pushing the piston down in the hydraulic cylinder and, as the contracting piston pulls on the eccentric arm fastened to the pivoted flat-plate collector, the solar collector is pulled over to face the fresh morning sun.
  • FIG. 3-A: The sun's rays warm right tank but not the left one. FIG. 3-B: As pressure builds in right tank, liquid freon is forced into left one and collector tilts in that direction. FIG. 3-C: As the collector turns more and more directly toward the sun, its left tank also begins to heat. As pressure builds in that container, it begins to accept less and less liquid freon from the right tank. Equilibrium Is achieved when the two containers are equally exposed to the sun. The system, in short, wants to automatically

MOTHER's Dennis Burkholder develops a $34.49 solar tracker that works better than some $200 units we've seen!

Make a Simple, Low-Cost Solar Tracker

See the Image Gallery for the diagrams of the solar tracker.

Anybody who's ever played around with solar energy (and that includes a lot of us these days) usually devotes a great deal of his or her early experiments to the fabrication and testing of flat-plate, parabolic, and other collectors of the sun's rays. And, sooner or later, he or she begins to think about how much more efficient (about 40% more) most of those collectors would be . . . if they only had some sort of mechanism built into them to keep them pointed directly at the sun all day long as it travels across the sky.

Now, there are a lot of solar tracking devices floating around at the present time . . . based on everything from wind-'em-up clockwork mechanisms to silicon cells to bimetallic gizmos of one sort or another. The only trouble is that all these gadgets are either expensive, or complex, or must be recalibrated frequently, or require an outside source of power with constant frequency and voltage and a separate feedback path to correct their errors . . . or some combination of the above.



What the world (or, at least, the solar energy experimenters' section of it) has long needed is a super simple, super inexpensive, super self-contained solar tracker that'll work dang near forever on — and only on — the energy it receives directly from the sun.

Steve Baer Tackles the Solar Tracker Problem

The folks here in MOTHER's research lab were impressed a year or so ago when Steve Baer (who often does such things) published a report entitled "Gravity Drivers". Especially since one of the gravity drivers described in that paper looked something like the setup shown in Figure 1.

walt1122
9/13/2017 8:00:03 PM

Freon 12 is outlawed, not allowed in residential or cars or commercial ( I think) for the last 20+ years. Ozone depleting use 134A instead. Get it at any auto parts place or Walmart. New way to track instead if this system ( I remember reading this article or one just like it 25 years ago. I think I even have the air cylinders around here someplace. The new way is using a timer that just moves a servo motor X number of inches every minute or so to just go across the sky at the same speed as the sun. Doesn't care if there are clouds just moves the panels across at the same time as the sun.


walt1122123
9/13/2017 8:00:01 PM

Freon 12, think you need to up date the design. Freon 12 is a NO NO. If you could even find it. Been outlawed for 20 years. Use 134A instead. Can get that at car parts place or Walmart.


bob
2/4/2014 11:30:33 AM

WHAT YEAR WAS THIS ARTICLE WRITTEN? WHAT SIZE COPPER PIPE WAS USED FOR THE FREON CYLINDERS? THANKS BOB







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