Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Portable Solar Tracking Mount

Portable Solar Tracking Mount

Folks have been building portable solar power generators for emergencies, camping trips, and boating. I have always noticed that most just find a place in the sun, and set the unit there. Few, if any had any solar tracking mount for their unit.

I bought a portable solar power generator unit, and got tired of positioning the portable solar panel, so I wanted to build a portable solar tracking mount for it. I also wanted to build a better unit on my own, or maybe two. We had a power outage for a week a couple of years back, and were without power for a week. I think it was hurricane Ike, winds hitting us way up here in Ohio.

I wanted a sturdy mount that would not fall over easily in the wind. On this day, it was windy, but nothing very fierce. It was also partly cloudy, and when the clouds cover the sun, the tracker circuit will wait for about 10 seconds for the clouds to pass, then if the clouds remain, it will search for the brightest spot in the sky. Therefore, there are a couple of times in the video where the mount appears to move back and forth briefly.


The tracking unit can be programmed to reset at night, but I do not plan to leave it out at night, so I have not set that.

Here, I am testing with 10 AA batteries (12 volts) just to look for problems. After I am happy with it, it will simply plug it into my portable solar generator.
I hope to do a video later showing "How To' build it.
Here, the mount is single axis, but I am thinking it could become a dual axis by replacing the vertical support with a very small actuator (or just strap another servo to the vertical axis). Not to forget, the tracking circuit requires a limit switch if you use an actuator.

General Design



Portable Solar Panel Mount motor side view - Krell Lab

Portable Solar Panel Mount back view - Krell Lab

Portable Solar Panel Mount base side view - Krell Lab

 Time Lapse Video

See also the story at the ServoCity blog:

   Building a Portable Solar Tracking Mount

Some of the parts used for the mount:

Adjustable Speaker Stand 80lb Capacity    $ 27.59

1 3/8'' Speaker Pole Mount Adapter         $1.89

What I like about the stand is that it should hold up to winds, and it telescopes to 7 feet.
In the winter, the area within the time lapse video is in a shaded area, and raising the mount to 7 feet will enable it to capture the sun during the winter months. It will support up to 80 pounds, is lightweight (7 pounds), and can be carried with or without the carrying case.

Solar Panel

RENOGY® 30 Watt 30w Monocrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel UL Listed Module 12v     $64.99
13.5x23.8x1 inches - mine is larger...464mm (18.27") x 556mm (21.9") x 35mm (1.38"), It puts out 1.8 amps

Currently unavailable.
I don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.
Tracking circuit


SBE Solar Tech 12V Digital Solar Tracker Control Board MK3.1  ......$39.00 + $4.62 shipping by SBESolarTech

SBE Solar Tech Sun Tracker Weather Enclosure  ......................$14.99 + $4.62 shipping
by SBESolarTech

 If you use a larger panel, or different servo, you may need to add the tracker relay circuit:

Support Beams (that attaches to panel):

Menard's or Ace Hardware

Plated Slotted Steel Angle 14 Guage 1-1/2" x 2 foot  $ 5.79 each
Motor, base, & rotating mechanism

(8871T31) 1/4 inch Bore Clamping Motor Mount             $ 1.99
(638154) 2 RPM Gear Motor (RZ12-1500-2RPM)               $24.99
       * Weight: 0.27 lbs. each
(9753K65) Gearmotor End Cap                              $ 0.89
(9753K66) Precision Gearmotor End Cap                    $ 0.99
(615206) 80T, 32P, 1/2 inch Bore Aluminum Gear           $12.99
(615270) 32 Tooth, 32 Pitch, 6mm Bore Pinion Gear        $12.99
(585438) Round Base A                                    $ 6.99
(585440) 1.50 inch Aluminum Channel                      $ 2.99
(635256) 6 inch length x 1/2 inch dia. Aluminum Tubing   $ 2.69
(633110) 1/2 inch Shafting & Tubing Spacers (12 pk)      $ 1.69

Plus miscellaneous parts: beams, screws, washers, nuts, etc.
I will try to get the "How To" build it video out later with instructions


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