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A Microcontroller Based Solar Panel Tracking System

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teaching Courses in Renewable Energy Systems

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.64.1 - 12.64.10



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Paper Authors


Robert Weissbach Pennsylvania State University-Erie Orcid 16x16

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Robert Weissbach is an associate professor of engineering in the Electrical Engineering Technology department at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, where he is currently the program chair. His research interests are in power electronics, power systems and multidisciplinary education.

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Isaac Aunkst General Dynamics Corporation

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Isaac Aunkst received his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College in 2006. Upon graduation he worked for GE Transportation Systems on locomotive electrical and instrumentation systems. He has recently been hired to work on power electronic system design for General Dynamics Electric Boat Division.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Microcontroller-Based Solar Panel Tracking System


Renewable energy is rapidly gaining importance as an energy resource as fossil fuel prices fluctuate. At the educational level, it is therefore critical for engineering and technology students to have an understanding and appreciation of the technologies associated with renewable energy. One of the most popular renewable energy sources is solar energy. This paper describes a capstone design project where a student in Electrical Engineering Technology designed and built a microcontroller-based solar panel tracking system. Solar tracking enables more energy to be generated because the solar panel is able to maintain a perpendicular profile to the sun’s rays. This system builds upon a prior senior design project where students built a solar-powered battery charger, thus making this system ideally self-contained. The student was able to demonstrate a working system, thus validating the design. Potential improvements to the system are presented.


There are three ways to increase the efficiency of a photovoltaic (PV) system1. The first is to increase the efficiency of the solar cell. The second is to maximize the energy conversion from the solar panel. To better explain this, please refer to Figure 1. A solar panel under an open circuit is able to supply a maximum voltage with no current, while under a short circuit is able to supply a maximum current with no voltage. In either case, the amount of power supplied by the solar panel is zero. The key is to develop a method whereby maximum power can be obtained from the voltage and current multiplied together. This “maximum power point” is illustrated by looking at a voltage-current (VI) curve in Figure 1, and finding the “knee” of the curve. A number of maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithms have been developed and employed.2

Figure 1. Illustration of a V-I Curve for a Solar Panel

The third method to increase the efficiency of a PV system is to employ a solar panel tracking system. Development of solar panel tracking systems has been ongoing for several years now. As the sun moves across the sky during the day, it is advantageous to have the solar panels track the location of the sun, such that the panels are always perpendicular to the solar energy radiated by the sun. This will tend to maximize the amount of power radiated by the sun. It has been

Weissbach, R., & Aunkst, I. (2007, June), A Microcontroller Based Solar Panel Tracking System Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2164

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