Degree: BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Project title: Investigation into Solar Panel technology and optimisation of their efficiency
The ever-increasing use of renewable energy technology now accounts for the largest growth in new energy production worldwide and renewable technologies, such as solar and wind, are now cheaper than fossil fuel technologies in the production of electricity. This trend indicates public acceptance that renewable energy technologies are going to be the energy sources of the future.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is now the fastest growing renewable power source worldwide. Solar PV panels work by absorbing sunlight via their photovoltaic cells and generating direct current (DC). Most solar panels are not working at their optimum efficiency as they are positioned at a fixed angle to the sun. The efficiency can be increased by moving the panel throughout the day so that it is aligned to face the sun. To prove that Solar PV panels can be more efficient when better aligned to face the sun, this project develops an automatic solar tracking system to keep solar panels aligned with the sun to maximise power. The automatic solar tracking system can sense where the highest light intensity is and align the Solar PV panel via an electric motor. The highest light intensity is detected via the difference in resistance levels of two Light Dependant Resistors (LDRs) that are placed apart on a solar panel.
The light intensity signals from the two LDRs are used to calculate the required directional adjustment of the panel. The calculations are performed by a microcontroller. From the magnitude and “sign” of the light intensity calculation, the microcontroller is able to calculate the magnitude and polarity of the control signal that will cause the alignment motor to turn the panel in the direction of the sun.
The Solar PV panel tracking system has been tested against an identical fixed solar PV panel under test conditions and is shown to be nearly 40% more efficient than a fixed panel.
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