Close
0%
0%

Sun Chaser

Mobile robotic solar panel to follow the sun and harvest solar energy in less than ideal locations due to trees and other obstructions.

Similar projects worth following
Sun Chaser is a robotic solar panel designed to navigate around objects such as trees, landscaping and buildings while hunting for the brightest sunlight within a set of GPS coordinates. After Sun Chaser charges its on-board batteries, the harvested power can power projects, campsites, remote equipment or help supplement a home’s power needs.

As the cost of solar energy continues to drop, more home owners across the country as well as across the world are installing grid connected PV systems. And as micro-controller power requirements have also decreased, energy harvesting for projects as well as remote equipment is also on the rise.  Solar is a great choice for many of these applications. It is a great trend, replacing the use of fossil fuels with clean green power.

Problem:

Although the use of solar power is increasing, many locations still cannot enjoy the benefits of solar energy due to obstructions such as trees, landscaping and so on.  Many of these locations have areas that receive full sun light for a short period of time during the day, but as the sun moves across the sky, these areas also move.

Solution:

Sun Chaser is an open source mobile robot with a motorized solar panel mounted on top.  Sun Chaser’s main purpose in life will be to find the brightest sunlight within a set of GPS coordinates and position its solar panel toward the sun and charge its on-board batteries.  Sonar will allow Sun Chaser to avoid objects, and GPS will prevent Sun Chaser from wondering off to some far away location. Six photo resisters positioned around two curved surfaces on Sun Chaser will be used to detect the direction of the brightest light. This will allow Sun Chaser to both find the brightest light and stay pointed toward the sun. The top-mounted solar panel will also be able to tilt to obtain the most light possible.

All of Sun Chaser’s motors and sensors will be handled by a Squid motor control board. A Raspberry Pi will also be on board to provide an on-board website to allow the owner to communicate with Sun Chaser and also to allow a docking station to communicate with several Sun Chasers through a WiFi network.

 After Sun Chaser has charged it’s on-board batteries, either Sun Chaser can dock with a docking station to deliver its power to a stationary load such as remote equipment or a home, or the owner can individually remove batteries from Sun Chaser’s battery compartment to power projects, phones or any gadget that can be powered by a lithium ion battery.

Sun Chaser’s light tracking test.

  • Test for the highest light level.

    Dennis07/16/2018 at 02:54 0 comments

    One of Sun Chaser’s main functions will be to find the area of the brightest light level.  Two curved surfaces with six photo resistors are used to form a 360 degree light level direction indicator.  The video below shows the test of the 360 degree light level sensors.  So far, so good!

  • Curved surfaces added.

    Dennis07/14/2018 at 01:18 0 comments

    The curved surfaces used to determine the direction of the greatest light with six photo resistors is complete.

    Below is Sun Chaser with the curved surfaces installed.

  • Photoresistors arrived from Digi-Key!

    Dennis07/07/2018 at 23:36 0 comments

    The photoresistors arrived from Digi-Key. Now I can assembly the curved surface to detect the direction of the greatest sunlight.

  • Starting the Build

    Dennis06/29/2018 at 01:10 0 comments

    The first Sun Chaser is being built from a lot of re-purposed materials. After testing and working out the bugs, another more reproducible version will be built. The beginning of the Sun Chaser is a re-purposed aluminum cover that will now be the bottom plate of the robot.  

    Two pieces of aluminum channel and a four strips of sheet aluminum can make a good motor mount.  The motor wires are routed through holes with grommets to protect the wires.

    Next, four stand offs and the Squid motor driver is mounted.

View all 4 project logs

Enjoy this project?

Share

Discussions

Josh Starnes wrote 07/24/2018 at 20:49 point

what happens when the sun goes down?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dennis wrote 07/24/2018 at 22:23 point

If it has a docking station and enough charge it will return
to the docking station. Otherwise it goes into a dormant state and waits until
morning.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Martin wrote 06/29/2018 at 09:27 point

Hopefully the device does not use up to much energy chasing the sun. Like the problem of some predators: If they have too often no success in hunting, they can become seriously  starving, as they need very much energy for chasing their prey.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dennis wrote 06/30/2018 at 12:45 point

Hi Martin, That is a good point. The robot does need to be
located in an area with at least some direct sun light. The bot does not
require very much power even when it is moving. It moves fairly slowly and the processors
spend a lot of time in a sleep state, waking up to check light levels. During low
light periods the bot becomes much less active.

  Are you sure? yes | no

malvasio.christophe wrote 06/27/2018 at 06:21 point

hmm denis you didn't read pmm.scad

so instead of be struggled by a poor light energy

open pmm.scad with openscad

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates