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Arduino Controlled Sun Tracking / Heliostat System
The links below show how my Arduino controlled heliostat array works. I’m still experimenting and documenting everything, but, as it is now, it is ready for beta testers.
On this page you will find a program for the Arduino which is capable of controlling various types of solar machines such as a a dual axis solar panel tracking system, a parabolic dish solar concentrator, and a heliostat. (8/16/10)
This page will show you how my heliostat / sun tracking electronics control system works and will also give you information which should help you put together your own. (8/03/10)
Here is a design of a heliostat which uses linear actuators to move.
It could definitely use some improvements, but it gets the job done. (12/21/10)
This page shows off a single machine sun tracking / heliostat electronics set up. A single machine system has fewer parts and is therefore easier to build, so this is a good starter circuit to introduce yourself into the world of sun tracking / heliostat electronics.
This page will show you how to wire a step/dir type stepper motor driver board to an Arduino. The driver board used in this particular example is available from Avayan Electronics and has thus far proven to be quite superb.
Misc. Heliostat Information
I've started to compile a list of heliostat applications on the forums. Of course, I couldn't possibly have thought of everything, so I need your help.
If you can think of an application where a heliostat would be useful, please share. Crazy ideas are just as important as practical ones. Thanks!
This page will show you how to find the amount of energy you can get from a heliostat based on your location and the angles between the sun, heliostat, and target. (11/29/10)
This page will show you how you can increase your heliostat's efficiency considerably by simply choosing good targets. (6/24/10)
Before using a target, it's a good idea to double check to see if your heliostat is physically capable of tracking it throughout the day. To make this task easier, I have uploaded a simulator to this page for you to try out.(6/29/10)
To make it easier for people to check whether or not their chosen target is the best one, I uploaded a program to this site which will graph how efficiently their heliostat is performing throughout the day. (6/27/10)
Here are a few safety tips that you should keep in mind when operating a heliostat. Much of it is fairly obvious, but I do feel as though I should at least make a couple of things clear.
When setting up a heliostat, it is necessary to select a target for it. To help make the process clearer, this page contains a handful of pictures along with a few quick paragraphs to explain what’s going on.
This page will show you where to put the reset limit switches on either a heliostat or a sun tracking machine (both are set up the same way). Although this page has been written with the Arduino Sun Tracker program in mind, the general concept should be the same if you happen to be using another similar program.
Other People’s Heliostat_Projects
Brendan from heliostats.org has been making some progress with his heliostat project. The gears you see in the above picture were printed out with his Makerbot. Pretty neat idea. A printable heliostat for solar power. The future looks very cool indeed. (8/22/10)
Here is a Heliostat project which, if I have my facts correct, was designed and built by industrial design students from Amsterdam. The site itself features several open source solar builds and is definitely worth keeping your eye on in the future.
One thing is certain, the design of this heliostat is a heck of a lot better looking than what I made. :)
This heliostat array
was brought to my attention by the users of this site’s forums, so credit goes to iamtawon and samd for finding it.
The system works by using a CMOS camera to examine the reflected light and determine how the heliostats must adjust themselves in order to reflect the sun’s light at the target.
Don’t take my word for it though. You can read all about it yourself in the pdf at this link
Here are several old heliostat projects which are what the more recent ones are built upon. For the most part, this stuff is obsolete, but there still might be some interesting information and ideas scattered through it.
Here is a small heliostat that I put together to test the "Sun Tracker" program.
I took a short 20 second time lapse video of it in action.
Here is my first decent sized heliostat. It is based on a gimbal design which seems like it should work well. This is still just a prototype, but I figured that I would show it off anyway.
Here is my second decent sized heliostat. I never actually got this one to work right, but I sure as heck gave it my best effort.
I did learn a lot from it though, so it wasn't a complete waste. (8/22/09)
Here is my third heliostat prototype. Believe it or not, this one actually worked! Finally! Woo Hoo!
I'm not going to go into too much detail here about building it, but it is still interesting to look at. (8/22/09)
Here is a heliostat array prototype
. That uses just one pair of stepper motors to control three mirrors. It's still not a perfect design, but it's more than good enough to give me the chance to do some experiments with it.
I hope to be able to test some of my heliostat ideas with it. (9/05/09)
This program will calculate the angles needed to correctly position a heliostat or sun tracking machine.
Once finished, it will then send signals through the computer's parallel port in order to control the stepper motors that will move the machine to it's correct orientation.
This page will cover the electronics you need to buy/scrounge/steal to make your heliostat move. (8/17/09)
This page will go over a Sketchup model of a heliostat design based on a gimbal.
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