How to Mount a Solar Tracker to Your Solar Concentrator How to Mount a Solar Tracker to Your Solar Concentrator

What You'll Need
Metal chop saw
Drill with metalworking bit
Nuts, bolts, screws, washers
2+ inch steel pipe
Solar concentrator
Shovel or augur
Concrete mix
Solar tracker and mounting bracket

A solar tracker rotates solar energy collectors to face the sun, and a parabolic solar concentrator reflects any light that strikes it into a single point. Together, these two complementary technologies can significantly increase the efficiency of a renewable energy system. However, mounting a solar tracker onto a solar concentrator takes planning. You must weigh cost and flexibility against system performance when designing the array. Choose an appropriate tracker for your concentrator and collector. Mounting the tracker will usually require sinking steel pipe into a concrete foundation and building a frame from steel rebar.

Step 1 - Choose Tracker Type

You can install a passive or active solar tracker. Passive trackers are driven by chambers of compressed fluid. In the sunlight, the fluid heats and expands, creating hydraulic pressure that rotates the tracker shaft. These systems are imprecise and not suitable for parabolic solar concentrators. Active trackers are guided by electronic controllers and driven by motors.

Step 2 - Choose Mounting Style

There are many different styles of mounting solar trackers. A polar tracker is mounted on a rod that runs north and south, parallel to the earth's axis. The angle between the polar axis and the horizontal axis is calculated based on latitude and season. Horizontal axle trackers consist of a long tube mounted on pylons or frames. The tube runs north-south, parallel to the ground. The panels rotate around the tube throughout the day. This type of mounting system is most effective during the spring and summer, and least effective in high latitudes. For high latitudes, vertical axle mounting works best. An altitude-azimuth tracker supports weight of the tracker and permits rotation in two directions. The altitude axis moves up and down; the azimuth axis swings in a circle parallel to the ground.

Step 3 - Sink Mast Pipe

Lay out the location of the supports for the mounting frame. Dig a hole 3 feet across at the site of mast pipes. Bury the pipe halfway up its length. Weld two pieces of rebar to the underground section in an "x" formation. Sink the pipe into the hole and then fill the hole with concrete. Leave the top 1 foot of the pipe clear of concrete. This may be necessary for drive assembly clearance if you are mounting the collector vertically.

Step 4 - Fasten Frame

Install the panel mounting bracket onto the steel pipe. Drill guide holes and bolt the brackets in place. At this point you may proceed installing a prefabricated kit or customize your own design. The easiest way to mount a parabolic concentrator is to run a pipe horizontally between two triangular frames. Fasten the concentrator to this pipe using u-bolts, rebar, or module rails. When placing the photosensor, take care to avoid shading from the reflector.

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