Monday, June 6, 2011

Turning solar towards the sun

A recent news article heralds a simple device to increase solar panels collection ability without using electricity.

Teen's invention makes solar panels 40% more efficient

The Vancouver Sun, June 5, 2011

Just 19, student inventor and entrepreneur Eden Full … recently received the Scotiabank EcoLiving Student Leadership Award for her invention, the SunSaluter.

"It was a very simple and inexpensive invention, yet it has a huge impact," said Green Living chief executive and president Laurie Simmonds. "Increasing and optimizing energy by 40 per cent — I mean, this is just remarkable that this young woman has done this."

Designed to increase the efficiency of solar panels by orienting them to always be perpendicular to the sun's rays, Full's device is driven by simple bi-metallic strips that expand during the day and contract as they cool at night.

As a result, it costs much less than comparable, motor-driven tracking systems and can be built using simple components available in developing countries.

According to Full, this is important for creating a system that can be sustainably maintained by the people who use it.

And from the entry posted at the competition website.

The SunSaluter: Maximizing Solar Energy Collection for $10

Dell Social Innovation Competition Website, Submitted By  efull,  Feb 13, 2011

The SunSaluter is a $10 solar panel rotating tracker that optimizes output by up to 40% through tilting the panel perpendicular to the sun. It is a simple mechanism using bamboo (or metal when used industrially), recyclable metal strips and the physical imbalance of the panel itself. Because of its basic assembly, The SunSaluter requires less maintenance than a traditional tracking system and does not use electricity as a motorized one would. In August 2010, two prototypes were deployed in Mpala, Kenya. Monthly reports indicate that The SunSaluters are improving the lives of one thousand Kenyans.

Large-scale solar panel manufacturers as well as emerging markets are the key beneficiaries of our tracking technology. Despite their economic status, the bottom of the pyramid spends $500 billion per year on energy to meet their cooking, lighting, communications, and general needs. Killing 1.6 million people per year, current energy sources in the third world are unreliable and hazardous to people's health. In established solar panel markets all over the world, there is a definite need for clean, cheap and efficient energy, possible with tracking. The SunSaluter is the only solution at present to fulfill this niche in the market.

Well she’s not afraid to blow her own trumpet, but it isn’t actually “the only” solution. This idea reminded me of a New Inventors episode some years ago where a just slightly more elaborate, but still non electrically powered device was presented.


New Inventors, Season 2, 2005, invented by Michael Patterson

The Hydrasolar is a solar tracking device, for solar panels, that does not rely on electric motors or computers to track the sun.

It is a new type of ‘passive’ solar tracker that uses a combination of direct sunlight (radiant heat) and shade (ambient air temp) to affect the thermal expansion and contraction of a liquid to make the solar panel rotate. The expansion of the liquid causes the panel to rotate toward the west during the day and the contraction causes the panel to rotate back towards the east at night, ready for the morning sunrise. The simple hydraulic system, ensures that the solar panel is angled towards the sun from dawn through to dusk - all year round.

You can see how the device works in the photo below taken from Make Online.

The bi-metallic strip version from Ms Full depends for part of its action on the weight of the solar panel, whereas this device does not.

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