Solar Tracking for the Renewable Energy Zone

Faculty Sponsor

Peter E. Johnson




Mechanical Engineering

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Summer 7-28-2016


The purpose of this research is to develop a LabVIEW code for the solar panel system in the Renewable Energy Zone in the Fites Center. This system consists of three photovoltaic panels which will be analyzed in ME 374 Heat Power Laboratory. Students in this laboratory will examine the performance benefits of the solar panel as it tracks the sun versus when it remains at a fixed orientation. While tracking the sun, mechanical switches are used to ensure the solar panel system does not exceed the rotational limits. To find the correct orientation, the LabVIEW code calculates the location of the sun in terms of azimuth and elevation angles based on the date and time from the computer. These angles determine how the solar panel must be oriented so that it remains perpendicular to the sun’s rays. To ensure the panels are oriented properly, encoders attached to the motors communicate the rotational displacement of the motor shaft to the program. Currently, the limit switches will limit the motor rotation, the tracking program will define the proper angles; however, the program does not yet accurately receive the encoder feedback. Proper analysis of the encoder signal will complete this project.

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