Do-It-Yourself Solar Tracking System

Designing and making a solar tracking system for solar orientation problems: Maximize the amount of energy you can collect.

| January/February 1979

  • 055-093-01-pix2
    The sunrise and sunset switches are controlled by two "arms" brazed to a hub and fastened to the pivot shaft.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Solar Tracking System
    Check out our solar tracking system and maximize the amount of energy you can collect by solving solar orientation problems.
    ILLUSTRATION: FOTOLIA/RIDO
  • 055-093-01-pix1
    The housing for the light-activated phototransistor is cut out of sheet metal or aluminum and bent to shape.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix3
    The control box does the "thinking."
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix7
    Phototransistor and its housing.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix5
    An illustration of the component layout.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix4
    Window motor provides muscle.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix6
    For illustration purposes, the perfboard shown here is transparent and the components on it are separated more than they would normally be. You may arrange the components in a tighter pattern on your own perfboard. In addition, the terminal pegs are removed in this illustration to clearly show where the lead wires are connected. In practice, each lead wire will require a terminal peg to hold the components securely to the perfboard … as shown in the lower left corner of the perfboard in this illustration.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-01tab
    1979 prices.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 055-093-pix8
    Control box key:S1, S2 - subminiature SPST roller lever switch % amps @ 250 vacS3 - SPST toggle switchRFC1, RFC2 - axial-lead RF choke, .1mH, 2 ampsR1 - 1/2-watt, 5600-ohm resistorD1 - 3-amp 200 PIV epoxy rectifierRY1, RY2 - 10 amp DPDT relay, 12 VDCRY3 - miniature SPDT relay, 12 VDCQ1 - FPT-100 silicon phototransistorC1, C2 - tubular capacitor, .1 MFD @ 200VSCR - silicon-controlled rectifier, 400 V, 6 amp
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 055-093-01-pix2
  • Solar Tracking System
  • 055-093-01-pix1
  • 055-093-pix3
  • 055-093-pix7
  • 055-093-pix5
  • 055-093-pix4
  • 055-093-pix6
  • 055-093-01tab
  • 055-093-pix8

A few issues ago, we featured an ingenious low-cost solar furnace built by a fellow named Charles Curnutt out in Twenty-nine Palms, California. Not only was Mr. Curnutt's rig inexpensive (about $250) and (fairly) easy to build, but it offered just about unlimited possibilities. In fact, the furnace seemed capable of doing everything from heating water to powering a steam engine, and those applications didn't begin to tap its full potential!

Even better yet, Charles — the unselfish guy that he is — agreed to let MOTHER's research team use his design to build our own version of the solar tracking steam generator, and to improve upon it if we could.

Well, folks, as many of you probably know, it's been a few months since that original article appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. We've finally got our "interpretation" of Mr. Curnutt's design nearly completed. Even though we still haven't found a steam engine that suits our needs exactly (this was one of the reasons for the delay in releasing our story) we can say the furnace itself is working well — well enough, in fact, to have powered a crude steam engine for an indefinite period of time.

Solar Tracker Follows the Sun!

The secret, of course, to a really efficient solar collector is that it must track the sun ... that is, keep a dead aim right at ol' Sol as he moves across the sky. When this can be done, every bit of direct sunlight available is used to the fullest extent at any given time of day.



What MOTHER has done with Charlie's design is mount 140 decorative wall mirrors onto a frame (each 12- by 12-inch mirror is attached to its own separate, adjustable-to-any-angle support), and then aim each of those mirrors at a roughly 2-foot-square "steam generator" or boiler. The boiler is housed in its own insulated box and mounted 10 feet above the frame on two sections of galvanized iron pipe. Not only does this pipe hold the "steam generator" system aloft, but it serves as a means for water to enter (and live steam to exit from) the boiler.

Additionally, the whole framework — which, remember, includes the mirrors and the "steam generator" — is free to move on a vertical axis (so it can "track" the sun on its journey across the sky), and also on a horizontal axis (so the "angle of attack" on the sun can be adjusted to compensate for changes of season). This horizontal adjustment is necessary, because the winter sun is roughly 30' lower in the sky than the summer sun.

abutouqa72
3/21/2007 4:43:58 AM

i am a student of electrical engg. i need ur help to bild a solar tracking system. i think will help me to provide me all papers and mechanisom for doing the project. by sumon


sumon
3/13/2007 1:02:54 AM

dear sir, i am a student of mechanical engg. i need ur help to bild a solar tracking system. i think will help me to provide me all papers and mechanisom for doing the project. by sumon







Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}