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Jul 06, 2015, 03:42 PM
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Building a Portable Solar Tracking Mount

Dave Hamm shared his recent project with us, a portable solar tracking mount. The idea stemmed from the realization that people have been building portable solar generators for emergencies, camping trips, boating, etc., but few have any sort of mount for their unit. Similarly, Dave had a portable solar power generator unit, but got tired of positioning it. He wanted a sturdy mount that wouldn稚 be knocked over in the wind.

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You can see his general design in the diagram above.

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Below Dave answers some questions we have about his build. Enjoy!

What inspired you to build it? Where did you get the idea?

Basically, when a hurricane came through a few years ago (I think it was hurricane Ike), we had wind damage, and were without power for a week. One of the biggest disappointments during the outage was attempting to keep the food from spoiling in the refrigerator. Then there was the lighting at night, and it does not take much to extrapolate to what would happen during the winter.

I bought a small portable solar generator last year, and fairly quickly became weary of always pointing the solar panel toward the sun during the day. Also, quite frankly, the unit that I bought was not made as well as it could be, so I decided to build my own unit (Do It Yourself style).

With the parts I had, I figured I could build two more portable solar power generators. And, I wanted to make some kind of tracking system since practically nobody makes small portable tracking systems or mounts.

How long did it take to build your portable solar tracking mount?

I probably spent the month of May on the build, level of difficulty is probably similar to a high school project. Most of that time was in obtaining parts. The tracking circuit was shipped May 5th, and I had ordered the tripod on the 10th. I continued to order parts from ServoCity on May 9th and May 15th, with a final order on May 24th, I think. I had finished the mount and tracking system design by about June 3rd. So, the time frame was largely dependent upon obtaining the parts.

What difficulties/challenges did you run into while designing/building? What was frustrating? What went well?

I started by obtaining the parts. The first items to show some difficulty were simply attaching the parts. I had noticed some leaning while turning, which was resolved by securing the channels together. Also, I saw the need to secure the motor mount.

The next problem I had was with the mount design. I have wires to the tracking circuit, then leading to the motor. (The tracking circuit controls the motor.) I noticed that my original design was causing the wires to wind up around the base, causing the wires to disconnect. That resulted in a re-work of the design so that the wires would not wrap around the motor.

What was your favorite part about this project?

It痴 always a thrill to build something, then see it work properly. Now I can let my portable solar generator charge up as best it can without having to adjust the panel all day long. I get a kick out of that.

If you池e looking to build something similar check out Dave痴 parts list.

Some of the parts used for the mount:
Adjustable Speaker Stand 80lb Capacity $ 27.59
1 3/8 Speaker Pole Mount Adapter $1.89

What I like about the stand is that it should hold up to winds, and it telescopes to 7 feet.
In the winter, the area within the time lapse video is in a shaded area, and raising the mount to 7 feet will enable it to capture the sun during the winter months. It will support up to 80 pounds, is lightweight (7 pounds), and can be carried with or without the carrying case.

Solar Panel
RENOGYョ 30 Watt 30w Monocrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel UL Listed Module 12v $64.99
13.5ラ23.8ラ1 inches mine is larger464mm (18.27″) x 556mm (21.9″) x 35mm (1.38″), It puts out 1.8 amps

Tracking circuit
SBE Solar Tech 12V Digital Solar Tracker Control Board MK3.1 $39.00 + $4.62 shipping by SBESolarTech

SBE Solar Tech Sun Tracker Weather Enclosure .$14.99 + $4.62 shipping

Support Beams (that attaches to panel):

Menard痴 or Ace Hardware
Plated Slotted Steel Angle 14 Guage 1-1/2″ x 2 foot $ 5.79 each

Motor, base, & rotating mechanism
(8871T31) 1/4 inch Bore Clamping Motor Mount $ 1.99
(638154) 2 RPM Gear Motor (RZ12-1500-2RPM) $24.99
* Weight: 0.27 lbs. each
(9753K65) Gearmotor End Cap $ 0.89 or (9753K66) Precision Gearmotor End Cap $ 0.99
(615206) 80T, 32P, 1/2 inch Bore Aluminum Gear $12.99
(615270) 32 Tooth, 32 Pitch, 6mm Bore Pinion Gear $12.99
(585438) Round Base A $ 6.99
(585440) 1.50 inch Aluminum Channel $ 2.99
(635256) 6 inch length x 1/2 inch dia. Aluminum Tubing $ 2.69
(633110) 1/2 inch Shafting & Tubing Spacers (12 pk) $ 1.69

Plus miscellaneous parts: beams, screws, washers, nuts, etc.

Be sure to check out more of Dave痴 work on his blog!
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Jul 07, 2015, 05:13 PM
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RickC_RCAV8R's Avatar
I like the looks of this simple system and would love to have 4 of them for my panels . However , these seem a bit light duty for what I have in mind . I am running SHARP 235W panels which weigh 42 pounds apiece . Would this system be able to handle those in the high wind conditions ?

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