The sun moves relative to the earth’s surface at the rate of 15° per hour east to west and by approximately 46° per year north to south. This means that fixed solar panels will hardly ever be perfectly aligned with the sun. That’s why the market in solar panel trackers is exploding.
Being able to orient your solar array towards the sun increases its yield by up to 40 percent. That means either, more power generated per panel, or less panels to generate the desired power. Either way, it’s a win win for solar power generation.
The technology at the heart of all this is solar panel trackers. The device that moves the array either east to west, or east, west, north and south. I would definitely suggest using this technology in a full-scale solar array, even a domestic one as prices are coming down and the money is offset by either buying less panels, or selling more power back to the grid (if you can).
There are plenty of resources online showing you how to make your own solar panel trackers. Some of them are very inventive, especially the one using bicycle wheels. I’m all for invention, using your hands and your brain to solve engineering problems. But I do have a problem with these DIY solar panel trackers.
It isn’t the design, it isn’t the making of it, it’s the inherent unreliability of the end result. Nobody can say that some 2×4 nailed together, a bicycle wheel and some angle iron is as hardy, reliable and safe as a professional solar panel tracker.
In situations where you depend on the power generated by a solar array, it’s far better to have a reliable source of power. You need to have confidence in the system, and always have the power on tap when you need it.
In a situation where the contraption is subject to the wind and rain, you need something that is designed to cope. Something that has a storm setting and an optimum angle built-in to default to during storms. You also need a device strong and robust enough to cope with wind while it’s trying to work.
As a DIY project, or an exercise in home engineering, these solar panel trackers are great. They teach essential skills, problem solving and keep solar power in the national consciousness. But, for real life applications in situations where you depend on the power generated, they aren’t so good.
You don’t want to wake up one morning only to have no power because your home-made solar panel tracker has stopped working and you have to repair it before your coffee.
Sometimes, spending money is necessary to achieve the full benefits of something.
Speculate to accumulate if you will. Solar panel trackers are one of those things.