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

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.

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

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

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