Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tapping the Sun: Progress Sheet-2

Some time back, I had shared with you all, details of a DIY project I am working upon. This project has been in plans and on the drawing boards for quite a long time. After years of planning and dozens of design changes, and of course, not much, but still a couple of thousands in investment [though the biggest chunk of investment is yet to be done], some days back, I have finally installed the tracker assembly on my rooftop. This means that the hardware part is almost over (almost, because I still need to install the Azimuthal rotation mechanism on the vertical shaft, which shouldn't take a lot of time, since I have planned how this will be done.)
Here are a few pictures I took before and after installation.

The part covered inside that black polybag is the gear and motor mechanism that will be driving the zenithal axis. For now I have kept it covered because I will need some time to assemble up the remaining things, on the software and electronics and control front to make it fully functional. The panel mounted is the 40 watt panel I had bought earlier this year, and am using to directly drive 3 arrays of 1 watt x 5 LED's that are currently lighting up the ground floor kitchen in my house, which needs light to be switched on, even in the afternoon.
This setup will help me test and refine the mechanism before the foggy days set in, which, if not done within time, will further delay the project by a month or so. And singlehandedly, (because my brother, who was quite enthusiastic till the prototype phase, didn't really get the idea beyond the drawing board, and has thus mostly abstained in the development of this project, since.) it will be hard to me to work on this for a couple months starting March. So, I want to finish the design, implementation and testing phase over this month (December), and have a new year's present from January 1, 2016.

What's been done: The Tracker platform is ready. Almost all of it has been done with crude tools with hands, and a power drill, except for the small bits of welding that has been outsourced. The electronics control systems have already been worked upon while making the small prototypes that we have been working on for around 2 years now. This means that part of the electronic control systems along with software is already there, all I need to do is to hook it up to this platform. The Altitudinal or the Zenithal tracking has been readied, which means that once I hook up the power cable of that DC motor to the motor driver, it will begin working. The Azimuthal tracking too has been set up, except that this has not yet been attached to the power systems, and the DC motor, and gearing mechanism for this is yet to be attached, but this one shouldn't take too much time, maybe, less than a week, if I work for around 1 hour everyday, in the evening, after getting back home, from office. In the last couple of days, I have also worked over the LDR based sensor assembly, which, I intend to use with this platform to provide inputs for an active tracking of the sun.

What's Left: As described above, most of the complex things have been sorted out. What's left is not much time consuming, but is definitely, money consuming. I still need to set up the Azimuthal tracking mechanism and the gear mechanism so that this could be called a Dual Axis Solar Tracker, as I wanted it to be. After that, I will be working on finetuning the Arduino code that we wrote for the prototypes, to make sure that it works as I want it to. Also, some more securing of the tracker platform needs to be done, to ensure that the really expensive stuff costing around 25K doesn't fall down two floors in the neighbour's empty plot, or even on my own roof, and get damaged. The money consuming part too is left. I am planning to hold a meeting with the guy who will help me get the two 250 watt panels for the initial setup, within this week or the next week. Next will be the Charge controller, which, I need to make sure that it is able to take in the power generated from the remaining two panels I have already planned to add in, to make a 1KW system comprising of 4x250watt panels, maybe, around 2 years from now. Also, I need to keep in mind that the charge controller should be a hybrid one, which accommodates input from both, the Solar array, and the grid mains, which will be charging the inverter battery from which the inverter will provide the power to run the appliances.

Future Goals: Though, it's too early to set up future goals, since, I am yet to set up the system, and make it functional, anyhow, I have something in mind, to expand the system over time, to try and be self reliant in terms of my electricity needs. For now, the system will have two panels 250 watt each, both of which will generate a combined power of 500 watts in an hour, which translates to close to 3-3.5KW through the day, if we take the most conservative figure for a sunny day. Further, I have planned to include two more panels of 250 watts my modifying the panel frame to accommodate two more panels and make the system a 4 panel one. Once this has been done, I will need to upgrade my inverter, and batteries too. The motive is to move as many appliances to solar power as possible. This includes the ones that are currently not running on my inverter, like the heavy wattage appliances.

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