Solar tracker

oil pan 4oil pan 4 Posts: 684Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
I know everyone says they are a waste of money.
But I am looking at building them really cheap but sturdy. The monopole designs look like they are most popular, but they would be destroyed out here and I don't think I really need to perfectly follow the sun across the sky the entire day from sun rise to sun set.
I'm thinking a ground mounted system that does automatic azmith and manual altitude.
Since I'm already building ground mounts that part cost is inherent, just making the mount move is the added cost.
I was looking at 200 to 300 additional dollars to make the ground mounts trackable for each set of 1,300 watts of panels.
Well I figure they make, build and install everything solar power related based on max power output.
But you only get full power for about 3 hours out of the day and out for a few months out of the year. So if I can maximize on that output I get the most power possible for a give system. Plus I want to build a sprawling multi level solar power system eventually up to 10kw. Once I exceede 10kw I would have to shell out massive $ for a service upgrade, that has to be done by an electrician.
With trackers I can build that extra power into the system a little at a time for a total cost of $800 to $2,000. Where the service upgrade starts at $2,000. If you don't have $3,000 in cash on hand for a service upgrade don't even bother calling the electrician.

The specs on the tracker would look some thing like 100° to 125° of azimuth rotation pivoting from the middle of the panel and up to about 40° to 45° of tilt for seasonal elevation. 
I may build the first one to test elevation tracking just to compare with active elevation control versus fixed.
As long as I can kind of point the panels close to orthogonal it will work really well, even if im off by 10° I'm only lose something like 1% of power.

To keep the ground mount build cost way down I was going to buy steel drill pipe from the local agricultural and tractor auction. The pipe I would use consistently goes for 70 cents to $1.20 a foot at auction. Usually right at $1 per foot.

My biggest welder is a miller model 250, about a 360lb machine that is stuck in the garage drive way area.
I'm running a dedicated welder circuit out there to my ground mount area for the buzz box, plasma, air compressors and already have a 30 amp 120v circuit out there.
I have a home made 100 amp DC Honda GX200 powered alternator welder, a 185 amp AC only buzz box, Lincoln 135 amp wire feed, 105 amp home made transformer tig.
240v powered 40 amp miller plasma cutter, about 7 grinders, portable band saw, chop saw. Cutting and forming metal is not a problem for me. 
I may drag my miller model 250 out there.

The only tools I don't have for this that I could see needing would be a tube notcher and power auger.

Solar hybrid gasoline generator, 7kw gas, 180 watts of solar, Morningstar 15 amp MPPT, group 31 AGM, 900 watt kisae inverter.

Solar roof top GMC suburban, a normal 3/4 ton suburban with 180 watts of panels on the roof and 10 amp genasun MPPT, 2000w samlex pure sine wave inverter, 12v gast and ARB air compressors.


  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,761Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    I don't say they are a waste of time. You can learn alot. You can also watch a time lapse of a dual axis and learn just as much.
    People who build them homebrew often have problems with the actuators and wind/snow.

    You can look at Array Technology and their trackers. I have been using them for over 12 years and none of the 30 or so I have bought have any problems. Zero!  You might get some ideas from their site. They now use mainly a HZLA which is a bit easier than a dual axis model 250. The 250 is the number of square feet of panels the design is good for in a hurricane.

    Many people virtual track offgrid to get long hours of power from the sun!

    My home is around latitude 37 and at this time of year the azimuth rotation is over 240 degrees. I do not bother with the elevation axis for offgrid as it really is for grid use where every watt is used.

    Good Luck!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

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