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Old 07-22-2010, 05:16 AM   #1
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Directional Solar panels

Hi all. I have searched the forum and found many posts on solar, but no-one seems to have mentioned the solar panels that follow the sun around during the day. They (apparently) can increase the efficiency of the panels (by up to a factor of 7!) particularly as we are a lot further south and below the tropics.
Has anyone here heard of, or used such a system? I wait with bated breath for replies!! (Fabulous forum - learning heaps!)
Cheers
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Old 07-22-2010, 06:04 AM   #2
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You can do a search for RV Solar Tracker, RV and Marine Mounts - RV Solar Tracker
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Old 07-22-2010, 09:37 AM   #3
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I suspect that one's RV lifestyle would specifically have to be focused to off-the-grid living to utilize this feature. This seems to be an all or nothing feature in that it would be difficult to mix stationary panels with tracker panels because of the shadow the tracker panels would cast. In addition, you may not end up with as many panel as with a stationary installation because of clearance problems with the tracker system. Although, if the tracker system is more efficient, you might not need as many panels and a cost/capacity analysis would be needed to determine if the reduction of panels would offset the additional cost of the tracker system.
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:04 AM   #4
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You can do a search for RV Solar Tracker, RV and Marine Mounts - RV Solar Tracker
Interesting link, though at $2500 each it is 5 times the cost of a 230W panel. so it would be worth it only if you do get 5 to 7X the performance. I wonder how it is stowed...

We use manual tilting mounts, which are OK, but still only give peak output for 4 to 5 hours of the day, and you have to position the coach East-West to use them most efficiently.

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Old 07-22-2010, 10:18 AM   #5
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IMO, if the panel(s) were laid flat on the top of the RV, wouldnt that eliminate the need to follow?
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:31 AM   #6
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I live off grid and use solar panels with generator back up to provide power for our house. Most of the people I talk simply add another one or two panels instead of buying a tracker. You can buy a lot of additional solar panels for the $2500 they want for that device.
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:50 AM   #7
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I live off grid and use solar panels with generator back up to provide power for our house. Most of the people I talk simply add another one or two panels instead of buying a tracker. You can buy a lot of additional solar panels for the $2500 they want for that device.
Seems like a good and cost efficient approach.

Sure is interesting that many RVers want, buy and install solar panels on their RV rooftops - but then want to park in the shade to lower their RV temperatures...

We use a single 55 watt panel that is used at ground level, connected with a cord long enough to allow us to change exposure to the sun throughout the day - and still park the RV in any available shade. We boondock a lot, and if we can keep the solar panel well exposed to the sun during daylight hours, that 55 watts is more than enough for the 2 of us for normal lights and some evening TV - we also have a 300 watt inverter.

Still, the technology and relatively inexpensive materials involved, SHOULD allow a pretty inexpensive tracking setup for smaller arrays to permit efficient operation with minimal $$$ outlay - a pair or 50 watt panels combined with such a tracking system, could provide substantial power for many Rvers for all but the heavier loads such as air conditioners and microwave ovens.

There's a ready $$$ making market out there for some ambitious developer type...
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Old 07-22-2010, 12:15 PM   #8
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IMO, if the panel(s) were laid flat on the top of the RV, wouldnt that eliminate the need to follow?
As the sun angle changes from shining directly on the panels to some deceasing angle the amount of solar energy avilable to the panels decreases and so does the charge current to the batteries.
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Old 07-22-2010, 02:07 PM   #9
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I know there are relatively inexpensive telescope tracking devices for tracking the orbit of various celestial objects - seems like a simple single-axis wind-up clock-like device could be fabricated to track the sun's daytime movement thru the day, and then at end of travel, reset position for the next day - sorta like an oscillating lawn sprinkler...

An Internet search on solar panel tracking will show MANY pointers and schemes - unfortunately, most seem aimed at larger and more complex arrays - and very few, or none, geared to few and simpler solar panel setups - especially portable ones. Way too much overkill for someone like me and others looking for a cheaper and simpler setup that is easily moved from one spot to another. :(

No help for this thread perhaps - but maybe get someone's grey matter working...
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Old 07-22-2010, 05:11 PM   #10
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Some pointers:

SOLAR TRACKERS > Solar Tracker & Sun Tracker & Actuator for Solar Tracker

Here's a neat portable unit:

Amazon.com: Chum Along, Portable Solar Power Charge for Field Use.: Toys & Games

Something closer to the bottom end - adaptable to different simpler arrays:

Sun Tracker Automated Solar Panel | Edmund Scientific

Lots more out there with an Internet search...
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:57 PM   #11
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Many thanks for the prompt replies. We are about 40 degrees South so we NEVER get the sun directly overhead. I can purcahse a ready made tracker system from a local supplier - haven't asked the price yet. It seems that a couple of 100W or thereabouts that track efficiently would provide much more power than the bank of 6 100W that lay flat on the roof. Agree that it would be harder to set-up and fold away, but the extra roof space and efficiency may more than out-weigh the cost factors.
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