I've just designed and built a homemade solar tracker than can be easily set to accurately align to the altitude of the sun (as it changes daily, with the seasons), and also faithfully track the sun, from sunrise to sunset. The tracking ability of the panel provides about 40% more power than a fixed panel. Another little-known advantage of sun tracking solar panels is that they run cooler, which enhances their output, versus rooftop mounted panels, or panels flat on the ground, which tend to build up a considerable amount of heat.
The lightweight, but sturdy device is a real workhorse, ready to provide power in the field for contractors, third world homesteads, camping trips, vacation cabins, scientifc research field stations, recharging electric powered radio controlled model aircraft, and sound systems for park events.
The heart of the unit is a standard Intermatic wall timer (Model FD12HC), with a 21 tooth spur gear mounted on the 3/16" diameter timer knob shaft, and a 36 tooth spur gear mounted on the 1/4" threaded axis that holds and rotates the solar panel. The electrical contacts of the Intermatic timer were gutted to reduce drag. The massof the lightweight 12 Volt, 12 Watt mono-crystalline solar panel, delicately balanced, slows the speed of the clock mechanism about a third of one percent.
The spur gears were ordered from:
Sterling Instrument / Stock Drive Products
Excellent schematics provided online for all gears.
21 tooth gear:
Part Number: A 1T 2-Y24021
36 tooth gear:
Part Number: A 1T 2-Y24036
Step 1: Articulated Foundation:
The foundation is designed to be lightweight, yet with rigid right angles at the corners, but is very flexible, parallel to the ground. In fact, a leg can be lifted almost 2 inches before another leg lifts. Four levels, one on each side, are required to accurately level the foundation to the ground. The photo shows the foundation knocked down for ease of stowage and transport.