Posts with «solar» label

Dual Axis Solar Tracker with Online Energy Monitor

[Bruce Helsen] built this dual axis solar tracker as one of his final projects for school.

As can be experimentally verified in a very short timeframe, the sun moves across the sky. This is a particularly troublesome behavior for solar panels, which work best when the sun shines directly on them. Engineers soon realized that abstracting the sun away only works in physics class, and moved to the second best idea of tracking sun by moving the panel. Surprisingly, for larger installations the cost of adding tracking (and its maintenance) isn’t worth the gains, but for smaller, and especially urban, installations like [Bruce]’s it can still help.

[Bruce]’s build can be entirely sourced from eBay. The light direction is sensed via a very clever homemade directional light sensor. A 3D printer extruded cross profile sits inside an industrial lamp housing. The assembly divides the sky into four quadrants with a light-dependent resistor for each. By measuring the differences, the panel can point in the optimal direction.

The panel’s two axis are controlled with two cheap linear actuators. The brains are an Arduino glued to a large amount of solar support electronics and the online energy monitor component is covered by an ESP8266.

The construction works quite well. If you’d like to build one yourself the entire BOM, drawings, and code are provided on the instructables page.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, solar hacks
Hack a Day 24 Jul 21:00

Solar Powered Hydroponics

[Dan Bowen] describes the construction of a backyard hydroponics set-up in an angry third person tirade. While his friends assume more nefarious, breaking, and bad purposes behind [Dan]’s interest in hydroponics; he’d just like some herbs to mix into the occasional pasta sauce.

Feel particularly inspired one day after work, he stopped by the local hardware store and hydroponics supply. He purchases some PVC piping, hoses, fittings, pumps, accessories, and most importantly, a deck box to hide all the ugly stuff from his wife.

The design is pretty neat. He has an open vertical spot that gets a lot of light on his fence. So he placed three lengths of PVC on a slant. This way the water flows quickly and aerates as it goes. The top of the pipes have holes cut in them to accept net baskets.

The deck box contains a practically industrial array of sensors and equipment. The standard procedure for small-scale hydroponics is just to throw the water out on your garden and replace the nutrient solution every week or so. The hacker’s solution is to make a rubbermaid tote bristle with more sensors than the ISS.

We hope his hydroponics set-up approaches Hanging Gardens of Babylon soon.

Filed under: cooking hacks, green hacks, home hacks

Solar Charge Controller Improves Efficiency of Solar Panels

The simplest and easiest way to charge a battery with a solar panel is to connect the panel directly to the battery. Assuming the panel has a diode to prevent energy from flowing through it from the battery when there’s no sunlight. This is fairly common but not very efficient. [Debasish Dutta] has built a charge controller that addresses the inefficiencies of such a system though, and was able to implement maximum power point tracking using an Arduino.

Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) is a method that uses PWM and a special DC-DC converter to match the impedance of the solar panel to the battery. This means that more energy can be harvested from the panel than would otherwise be available. The circuit is placed in between the panel and the battery and regulates the output voltage of the panel so it matches the voltage on the battery more closely. [Debasish] reports that an efficiency gain of 30-40% can be made with this particular design.

This device has a few bells and whistles as well, including the ability to log data over WiFi, an LCD display to report the status of the panel, battery, and controller, and can charge USB devices. This would be a great addition to any solar installation, especially if you’ve built one into your truck.

This is [Debasish]’s second entry to The Hackaday Prize. We covered his first one a few days ago. That means only one thing: start a project and start documenting it on

Filed under: solar hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Solar Panel System Monitoring Device Using Arduino

[Carl] recently upgraded his home with a solar panel system. This system compliments the electricity he gets from the grid by filling up a battery bank using free (as in beer) energy from the sun. The system came with a basic meter which really only shows the total amount of electricity the panels produce. [Carl] wanted to get more data out of his system. He managed to build his own monitor using an Arduino.

The trick of this build has to do with how the system works. The panel includes an LED light that blinks 1000 times for each kWh of electricity. [Carl] realized that if he could monitor the rate at which the LED is flashing, he could determine approximately how much energy is being generated at any given moment. We’ve seen similar projects in the past.

Like most people new to a technology, [Carl] built his project up by cobbling together other examples he found online. He started off by using a sketch that was originally designed to calculate the speed of a vehicle by measuring the time it took for the vehicle to pass between two points. [Carl] took this code and modified it to use a single photo resistor to detect the LED. He also built a sort of VU meter using several LEDs. The meter would increase and decrease proportionally to the reading on the electrical meter.

[Carl] continued improving on his system over time. He added an LCD panel so he could not only see the exact current measurement, but also the top measurement from the day. He put all of the electronics in a plastic tub and used a ribbon cable to move the LCD panel to a more convenient location. He also had his friend [Andy] clean up the Arduino code to make it easier for others to use as desired.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Maximize Your Solar Charging With a DIY Arduino Controller

Here’s how to build a buck converter using an Arduino Nano (as well as another 28 listed components) to supply the maximum power that you can to your PV cell. This is known as maximum power point tracking, abbreviated MPPT. Photovoltaic (PV) cells produce different amounts of current and voltage depending […]
MAKE » Arduino 23 Feb 23:01

Experiencing the solar flux with an interactive installation

Dmitry Morozov shared with us a new interactive installation called  Solarman at the Polytech Museum in Moscow. 2014 and It’s a work he created with Julia Borovaya and Edward Rakhmanov using 64 ultra bright LEDs, 12-channel sound system and 8 electrical nerve stimulation electrodes controlled by Arduino Mega :

Data on power of X-radiation flux from the Sun is received in real time from the satellite GOES15 which is tracking solar activity. It is being converted into streams of sound, light and electric discharges, thus allowing a spectator to experience in more intensive and evident way the influence of the main luminary of the solar system.

The data, which is measured in watts per square meter, come with a frequency of once per minute. A special computer algorithm transforms it in sound waves, distributed by 12 channels in the space. The radiation power directly controls the height of tones and spectral changes in the sound. The speed of sound displacement in the space is also dependent on these parameters. Light is generated by algorithmic transformation of X-ray emission into physical modeling of light particles, which also affect the muscle stimulators in the chair to produce weak electric discharges.

Check the video below to see the power of the sun:

Arduino Blog 09 Dec 19:57

Mobile Solar Power Plant

Doomsday preppers, hoarders, take note… Electrical power can go down at any time due to natural disasters, overwhelmed power stations and, of course, various apocalypses. Still, in those times, some of the more thrifty individuals turn to gas powered generators to keep their frozen burritos cool and their favorite shows […]

Read more on MAKE

MAKE » Arduino 09 Aug 00:01
arduino  general  solar  

A solar charge controller made with Arduino

Instructables user deba168 is an electrical engineer based in India. He posted a tutorial to solve a common problem in his country:

In India most of the people are living in rural area where national grid transmission line is not reached till now.The existing electric grids are not capable of supplying the electricity need to those poor people. So renewable energy sources (photo voltaic panels and wind-generators) are the best option I think. I know better about the pain of village life as I am also from that area. So I designed this DIY solar charge controller to help others as well as for my home.You can’t believe, my home made solar lighting system helps a lot during the recent Cyclone Phailin.

He then  made a charge controller  running on the Arduino Uno and with an important task: to protect the rechargeable battery of photovoltaic systems. It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels and it’s placed between a solar panel and its battery . It is used to maintain the proper charging voltage on the batteries so as the input voltage from the solar panel rises, the charge controller regulates it,  preventing any over charging. It works on the principle of PWM which improves efficiency of the solar PV systems.

You can follow all the steps on his page but first take a look at the video:

Plantoid Robot: Rimor Mundus, Terrapod v2

Primary image

What does it do?

Uses data based on the condition of a plant in a terraruim ecosystem to explore and react to the outer world.


Cost to build


Embedded video

Finished project


Time to build

8 hours



URL to more information


300 grams

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Tracking Solar Brightness with a Homemade Sun Logger

The Sun Logger, a data logging device, combines several components we’ve used in previous Weekend Projects. You may recognize the light-sensitive photoresistor (Optical Tremolo Box) and the Arduino Uno microcontroller (Touchless 3D Tracking Interface). These parts, when combined with a 74AHC125 Level Shifter and SD card socket mounted on a homemade “shield,” will record the levels of light shining down on your project box. That data, recorded every 15 seconds to the SD card, can be exported later to any popular spreadsheet software and graphed, giving you a visual representation of light changes over time. This data could aid in knowing where best to plant a garden, or simply to understand changes of light intensity throughout the seasons in your micro-climate.

And while this project is readymade for recording levels of sunlight, the Arduino has a total of six analog inputs (labeled A0 – A5) and could easily record other variables. For example temperature, motion, or barometric pressure. Makers looking for a mid-level Arduino build, or knowledgeable coders looking to solder together their first homemade shield, the Sun Logger is a great project to build!

Filed under: Arduino, MAKE Projects, Weekend Projects