Hackaday Awards 2022: Compact solar tracking system doesn’t break the bank

If you need to extract every available watt from a solar panel, you’ll probably want to look into a solar tracking system. Unfortunately, they are usually quite big, heavy and expensive. As an alternative, [JP Gleyzes] has come up with a DIY solar tracking system that aims to solve these problems.

From a 100 W flexible solar panel bought during a Black Friday sale, [JP] first created a simple frame using 20mm PVC tubing and some 3D printed supports. It mounts on a wooden base with a printed worm gear rotation mechanism, powered by a stepper motor. The tilt is managed by a lead screw consisting of a threaded rod, connected between the wooden base and the top of the solar panel, and is also driven by a stepper motor.

For even more efficiency, [JP] also created an MPPT charge controller with an associated app using an ESP32, a modified 20A buck converter, and a current sensor module. The ESP32 also controls stepper motors. The optimal angle for the solar panel determined using the system’s date, time and GPS position. [JP] had also created a simple Android app to calibrate the starting position of the panels.

This project is a 2022 Hackaday Prize Planet-Friendly Power Challenge finalist, and all the details for building your own are available on your project page. Looking at the size of the system, we think future iterations could be even smaller.