Thanks to innovations all over the solar industry, solar tracking is set to get a new technological boost. Three patents promise to unleash a new era in smart solar tracking. The new trackers will be capable of precisely tracking the movement of the sun, without much human intervention. These trackers will increase the efficiency of photovoltaic farms, even in cloudy weather.
Traditionally, the effectiveness of solar tracking has dropped significantly in cloudy weather. However, by fusing solar tracking hardware with climate-aware software, solar tracker manufacturers hope to make these trackers capable of tracking the sun even when it’s behind a layer of clouds. The software, through the help of sensors, analyzes the cloud cover in real time and adjusts the solar tracker’s tilt angle to maximizing the panel surface area exposure, even when cloud cover diffuses the sun.
The software uses a predictive software algorithm together with a hemisphere cameras and photosensors that detect the luminosity of the sun. The data gathered by all these sensors allows the system to make short-term predictions about the change of cloud cover and the sun’s direction. The data also allows the system to calculate the maximum angel of inclination suitable for maximum electrical output on a given solar panel, even in diffuse conditions.
So what does this mean for solar farms? For starters, owners of smart solar tracking systems have their work cut out. They do not have to check constantly on their trackers to make sure they keep up with the sun’s movement across a cloudy sky.
Also, there is the distinct possibility that solar trackers will be the latest addition to the Internet of Things. It’s inevitable that future trackers will be hooked to the Internet where they can receive real-time weather information and data to help them better predict the sun’s position and panel angle at which maximum output can be realized.
Imagine a solar tracker that can intelligently follow the sun all day, without missing even a single ray of sunlight. The tracker would be able to harvest the sun’s energy during the winter and even in places with a lot of cloud cover.
Furthermore, owners of smart tracking units would enjoy the benefit of up-to-the-minute weather data flowing into their farms. The systems would then parse the data to make models about the sun’s relative position at a given time.
The Possibilities are Endless
The systems could also potentially cross the chasm and enter the world of intelligent machines. The dawn of self-aware and predictive solar trackers would potentially even allow the trackers to work as a group to harvest the maximum amounts of the sun’s energy, or act individually in a bid to collect as much sunlight as possible.
We’ve all seen the possible benefits of self-driving cars. The same technology can make trackers smarter and more efficient than they are today. It would not be surprising to find trackers a decade from now that operated autonomously, making decisions and harvesting the sun’s energy all without any form of human intervention.
Keith Hallman is a review of solar tracker manufacturers. He blogs about various options available as well as new and upcoming technologies in the solar energy field. Connect with Keith if you have any questions.