Introduction: TRIPLE YOUR SOLAR ARRAY'S OUTPUT!

Solar panels are cheap, and due to improvements in manufacturing, economies of scale and other factors, they are getting even cheaper. But, that leaves most of us with the problem of where to put them. While solar panels are easy to come by, land and roof space to put them on is not. If fact, it is quite the opposite; solar panels get cheaper while property prices increase.

The results of the new and original concept presented here are astonishing. After performing this experiment we'll find that we can more than triple our output for a given area; actually, data shows an increase in output of 670%. If you have 100 sq feet, you can go from 1kW to 6.7kW of output power! If you have 1,000 sq feet, you can go from 10kW to 67kW!...

Land is an expensive part of solar farming in most cases.The technology described here has the potential to save us billions in the development of large scale solar applications by reducing land costs, and in addition, this particular advancement can make energy independence truly possible for the average home owner.

Let's find out how...

Step 1: Theory and Abstract

This discourse from the standard method is based on our findings from previous experiments to determine the nature of light. Now that we have determined that light is a wave and not imaginary particles, we can begin to treat it as such and by doing so we can then reap the benefits of our new found knowledge.

If light were particles, then to optimize for efficiency we would want to maximize area on the plane perpendicular to the source in order to collect as many of these particles as we can. But, it is not. Light is a wave, a vibration with an energetic potential difference between points of positive and negative amplitude.

So, rather than collecting "photons" like particles in a bucket, let us harvest the energy from a wave of light in a way similar to other known waves.

Sound, for instance, can be captured very efficiently. As a sound engineer for many years I have witnessed this for myself. Sound waves, for a given area, are best absorbed not by a flat wall but by an array of ridges known as studio foam. In "the quietest place in the world," Microsoft's award-winning anechoic audio lab, the walls are composed of long wedges which cause the sound to reflect multiple times, each time losing an amount of energy to the wedge.

Knowing that light is a wave, we can take advantage of that same property and given that light is of a higher frequency than sound (0.003-7.5 x 10^14Hz at 299,000,000 m/s compared to 20Hz-20kHz at 343.2 m/s) we will have more reflections for a given distance and therefore more opportunities to capture that energy.

We will keep in mind that, when capturing the energy of a wave, at every successive interval energy will decrease because amplitude is lost at each reflection point. This will result in exponentially decreasing energy with respect to the number of reflections. But these reflections, if graphed based on our theoretical geometry, show a fractal pattern of data that is additive at every point of reflection. At the scale of this experiment we will be capturing the energy from up to 100,000 reflections or more, opposed to one single reflection captured with a typical flat solar array orientation.

In a recording studio environment it is advantageous to reflectively direct sound waves into wedge-like cavities to absorb that energy instead of allowing the sound to bounce off the wall while maintaining a large portion of it's energy. In a solar array, as we are about to find, it is similarly advantageous to do the same.

Instead of letting light hit our solar panels and bounce off as wasted energy we will set up a configuration that reflects each light wave multiple times extracting more and more energy each time. This reflection will cause the inside of the solar panel configuration to appear darker than a standard flat configuration which we can observe by measuring reflected light traveling in the inverse direction as the source. Most importantly though, we will observe that by taking advantage of the known wave properties of light, we can extract significantly more energy for a given area.

Let's begin...

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

The basic parts of this configuration are simple and are the same components used in any solar array. We are simply going to optimize our configuration to produce the most energy from a given area.

The core of the parts required are, of course, the solar cells. We are going to design a configuration that allows for more of them to fit in your yard, on your roof or on your town's solar farm.

For this project, we'll be designing a handy platform for testing, experiment, optimization and demonstration.

Once you see for yourself how much more energy you can get from a square inch, you'll want to immediately scale it up!

Let's begin with a small scale version first, though.


Parts include:

(8) Solar Cells, uniform (ex. 2x4", 6v,1w)
(2 ft.) 12-22g Insulated Wire
(2) Digital Voltmeters, low draw, may require resistors/dummy load
(2) Plexiglass, 8x10"
(4) 5/16" Bolts
(8-12) 5/16" Nuts
(4) 5/16" Washers, End Caps

Tools needed:
Soldering Iron, Solder
Drill, Bits, and Cut Disk
Hot Glue Gun, Glue

Testing equipment:
Multimeter
Luxmeter (light meter)

You may also take this time to review and print the attached diagram which includes a data sheet to be filled out during testing.

Once we have our materials in order we can proceed.

Step 3: Wire Experimental and Control Arrays

We are optimizing for area. Solar cells are easy to come by; space to put them is not. Let's use this novel configuration to maximize our use of space.

What we will be doing is geometrically orienting our solar cells to:
Firstly, capture more of the energy by minimizing losses due to reflection, and additionally, fit more photo-voltaic material in a given space.

The first step is to wire our cells and according to the previous diagram we can fit two traditionally oriented 2x4" cells in an area of 4x4", and with the new orientation design presented here we can fit six 2x4" cells in a space of only 1.5x4".

Our first pair will be our control, the same old solar panel configuration. We'll wire them up in series and signify the leads by attaching appropriately colored wire.

Our next array will be our experimental setup which contains six cells in series as well which will keep current constant for this experiment allowing us to measure variable voltage. Allowing an extra few millimeters in the length of the wire used for your series connections and pre-bending them will avoid binding in the next step. You may also add your output leads to the opposing positive and negative terminals and your wiring will be complete.

Take this opportunity to test for functionality and continuity.

Step 4: Configure Experimental and Control Arrays

Now we will be implementing our knowledge of the nature of light through the use of wave theory, vector analysis and geometry. Sound difficult? It's not.

Light is a wave that reflects. Each time it reflects, some energy is lost and some energy remains. Based on this, we can decide to orient our configuration to that it reflects again and again which will allow us to capture energy again and again from a single ray of light.

First though, we will orient our control set side-by-side just like every solar array you've ever seen before today.

Next, we will produce the experimental array. This can be built according to my specifications or adjusted at your discretion. With our set of six wired cells, we will attach them one at a time with glue. We will pair our cells in "V" shapes with a measured angle of 22.5°, which results in a gap at the open end of 0.5 inches for each pair. This can easily be recalculated for cells of a different dimension. Each "V" should have the solar cells facing inward. We will now attach the three pairs with glue which should result in an overall width of only about 1.5 inches, as shown.

These two arrays can then be tested again, adjusted if necessary and put to the side.

Step 5: Build an Experimental Platform

It is important to have a level, stable and consistent platform to keep all variables constant for experimental purposes. We will be measuring distances from artificial light sources to a high degree of accuracy and placing the platform in natural light which must remain exactingly consistent for accurate results which can be dependably scaled up.

To build this platform we will attach our components to a sheet of plexiglass or other suitable material. First, plan, measure and trace component placement on the sheet based on the supplied diagram. Then, drill holes for wiring and in the corners for mounting and cut holes for your meters. You will want to drill corner holes in both sheets simultaneously for parallelism after the wiring and meter holes have been made in the first sheet.

You may then mount your two solar array configurations side-by-side and upright, on the same tangent with reference to a light source above. Next, mount your voltmeters and wire them accordingly. The meters serve for demonstration purposes but I also incorporated additional leads to attach a multimeter for more accurate experimental readings and better display in bright sunlight.

Once complete, add a nut to your bolts and drop on the sheet with holes in the corners and ensure it is level. This sheet will serve as a bottom cover. Add another nut to secure the bottom sheet and for spacing, then add your top sheet with components mounted and secure it in place.

The experimental platform is now ready to test this new and innovative solar array.




Step 6: Test, Calculate and Optimize

Testing can be performed by the following methods.

This array can be tested laboratorially in the presence of a consistent-lumen light source such as a standard lamp. With a single artificial light source in close proximity, we will test each array independently in order to keep input constant. First, place a light meter on the flat control array, apply constant light and note the lux reading. Then, carefully remove the meter and note the voltage. With low intensity artificial light, your meters may be insufficient and a more accurate powered multimeter may be required to obtain a reading. Then, repeat the process with the experimental array. It is very important to ensure both tests are performed at exactly the same light level. Because the experimental array sits higher, you will need to adjust your light source in order to test at the same lux reading as your control. Once you have reached a lux reading precisely equal to your control test, carefully remove the meter and note the voltage.

You will find that your experimental array produces significantly more power even though it requires only a fraction of the area!

Repeat the process outside in natural high intensity sunlight and the results will be compounded even more!

I have included my test results as well as a blank data sheet for you to use for your own experimentation. To calculate the efficiency increase with respect to area, we will adjust voltage for input variance if necessary, calculate voltage per square inch and simplify which will give us a qualitative result which we'll call our efficacy coefficient

My tests show an improvement of 670%, over six times the energy from the same space!

This technology has the potential to allow for the roof of a single family home to produce enough power for complete energy independence and will result in solar farms being only a fraction of the size and cost. This type of array can be used on electric vehicles with limited space like electric bicycles, electric cars and even to power geosynchronous satellites in space.

Try the experiment for yourself, post your data and photos and then scale it up to power your home, electric car or anything else. Use of this principle in conjunction with modern photo-voltaic cells will result in world record efficiency. Try combining this configuration with a solar tracker and you will be able to harness more solar energy from a square meter than you ever thought possible. Thanks for reading.

Comments

author
DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-16

This idea just came across my desk and it is a helpful way of looking at it. Imagine you have only a small area of yard that gets direct sunlight. Wouldn't you want to maximize that area?

Well, here's how...

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-16

Data sheet at +/-1200 x100 Lux

Optimized Solar Array DIAGRAM-TEST ONE.jpg
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UNSEPARABLE+TECHSCIENTIFICS made it!(author)2017-07-17

I will check your idea soon!!!!

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Drake2312 made it!(author)2017-04-14

so just as an additive to this experiment would it be detrimental or additive if you used say a one way mirror in a wider angle array so that the light will filter in from the top and then be bounced of the mirror coating on the opposite side keeping as much light trapped inside as possible but allowing for the lower adjustment of the wider angle?

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2017-04-27

What we find is that solar arrays themselves act as mirrors so, when used in the configuration proposed, they can result in a far greater efficiency with respect to area.

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David+the+R made it!(author)2016-06-17

It's true most solar cells convert approximately 10% of the energy striking them to electricity but they definitely do not simply reflect 90% of the photons back off the cell. Any object doing that would appear white or silver.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

They do! If you look at a flat solar panel at just the right angle, the glare from the sun appears bright white. This is wasted energy! Now, with my newly proposed configuration, we can capture that energy rather than allowing it to reflect way. Thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation!

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JBM7 made it!(author)2016-07-28

If this worked NASA probes would look like this... But surprise, they don't. Good luck selling this to anyone :)

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cosmoneer made it!(author)2017-04-27

This is being researched at the silicon level, which supports his findings.

http://pveducation.org/pvcdrom/surface-texturing/

Scanning electron microscope photograph of a textured silicon surface. (Image courtesy of The School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering, University of New South Wales)

INV_PYR.gif
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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2017-04-27

Fantastic application of the concept. Thanks for sharing. I knew it was only a matter of time before this began to catch on.

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GaryA95 made it!(author)2017-04-23

JBM7 you are forgetting a few critical points, mainly the increased weight that would have to be taken from potential payload, by doing this which is a no go. NASA instead spends 600 times what we do on photo-voltaic panels so they can have panels around 30% efficient as apposed to our 10ish% More like 8% in my experience.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-07-28

Give them a few years to catch on. You can't blame them for not thinking of it first; they have a lot on their plate over there. ; ) Thanks for checking out my article!

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David+the+R made it!(author)2016-06-20

It may be wasted but it's a tiny fraction of the total energy. It's the same as being at certain angle to a piece of plate glass and looking at the reflection, it is a tiny fraction of the light energy. You are only looking at the light beyond the angle of incidence. If the solar cell is perpendicular to the sun, almost all the energy goes to the cell, 10% is converted.

I appreciate your efforts but I am trying to keep people from looking for a lot of energy where there is very little.

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cosmoneer made it!(author)2017-04-27

This is a similar design to yours, using mirrors and is on a much larger scale.

http://www.startribune.com/giant-solar-project-in-paynesville-minn-produces-frustration-no-juice/317662731/

Image Credit: Brian Peterson - Star Tribune

ows_143744130322520.jpg
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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2017-04-27

Thanks for sharing but they don't seem to have it quite figured out yet. Maybe I will contact them regarding a consultation. Thanks again.

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SHOE0007 made it!(author)2017-02-10

It a sad story but the Oil and coal companies say Solar cost 15 min cent an KwH were it cost only 5-6 cent a KwH. They lie so they can keep on burning coal and oil. There is enough sun in the deserts of Asia and Africa to power most of Europe.

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Alijo0nn made it!(author)2017-01-19

Dear Mr. Paul

I have two questions. Please answer to me clearly.
1. I measured the gap at the open end of 0.39 inches for angle of 22.5°. How did you calculate the open gap equal to 0.5 inches?
2. Are other angles effective for V form? such as 30° or 40°
Best Regards

author
DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2017-01-20

Glad to hear you are working on this exciting project.
The gap was calculated from edge to edge of each v-module.
To determine the optimal angle, you will find that maximum output voltage occurs when the most reflections can be captured in succession. Therefore tighter angles will yield better results when directly pointed at the sun, yet will require more adjustment; wider angles will require less adjustment but will allow more light to escape.
I hope this helps and be sure to post your results for us to see.

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SHOE0007 made it!(author)2016-11-07

That compact solar cell idea is awsome since you could place a lot of them together and get more space and more energy from the solar cells.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-11-08

Thank you so much for checking out my project and I appreciate the kind words.

You are absolutely right. Whereas this may not be appropriate where space is unlimited, in any application where area IS limited this configuration can produce a far higher wattage output with reference to area than traditional configurations.

Thanks again.

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milessw made it!(author)2016-06-16

You really should rename the project as it is misleading. You are not actually making the panel more efficient. It your use of space.

All you have shown is that solar panels will work in a configuration where they are not directly facing the sun.

The down side of this configuration is you have actually reduce the arrays efficiency by reducing the number of useful light harvesting hours in a day as half the panels would be in partial our total shade most of the time. and without any bypass links setup for the shaded panels in the array the installation would most like collapse under load.

I would suggest only using 4 panels in your array to reduce the angle of the panels, incorporate bypass links or have 2x 2 panel strings (one string where both panels face east and the other string of 2 panels face west) and connect the 2 strings in parallel.

Give that a go ;)

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-16

I thought about that so note that its not named Triple Your PANELS Output, it is Triple Your Solar Array's Output (with reference to area). Good point. I think this needs to be used with either a solar tracker or parabolic reflectors. Im working on that now.... Thanks!

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milessw made it!(author)2016-06-16

Yeah.. hair splitting doesn't change the fact that you're not actually tripling anything except the number of panels in your array.
At best you could say is "Triple the size of your array in the same space or area!!" I'm sure you would agree that anything else could be considered as deceptive and a little bit dishonest.
But, I think you already know this.

If you're just after view hits and comment counts... I would recommend YouTube as a more appropriate forum.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-08-02

You can find my YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/drewpauldesignscom

Be sure to subscribe for more projects!

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SzabolcsK made it!(author)2016-06-17

It may not triple the output, but with a good solar tracking it'll sure produce more energy as the reflected light is absorbed by the other panels. On second thought I'd try focusing the sunlight with lenses and mirrors instead.

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thassaj made it!(author)2016-06-17

I think this is a pretty good idea: the main plus point is that as a solar cell doesn’t absorb 100% of the photons with an energy above the semiconductor band gap energy, it must be reflecting some of these photons back out and they are lost. It is this lost energy that can be partially recaptured in this configuration. By using the V shape, the photons of interest get a second chance to be absorbed by the pn junction and converted to electricity. And then of those still reflected, they get a third and fourth chance, etc.

One thing that would be interesting to know is the reflectivity (percentage of photons reflected) at a given wavelength corresponding to usable energy (i.e., energy higher than the band gap energy). If we knew this, and also the power generation function, as a function of angle of incidence on the solar cell, it would be possible (using the solar power spectrum) to calculate the optimal angle for the “V” as well as the maximum theoretical performance enhancement, where by performance I mean power output ratio compared with cells that face the sun directly. This would represent a theoretical upper bound on the benefit of the V configuration.

I bet this data is sitting around on the internet … let’s see …

I wonder if creating “inverted pyramids” by folding in two dimensions would be any better?

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thassaj made it!(author)2016-06-17

OK - I did an approximate calculation, taking into account that a solar cell will pick up less light per unit area when it is at an angle to the sun, taking into account the reflectivity of silicon solar cells with no anti-reflection coatings as a function of angle (Optics Communications 172 (1999) 139-151 - A. Parretta, et, al), and taking account of the fact that for a smaller V angle you will pack in more solar cells in the same area. What I find is that for a V angle of 15 degrees (roughly what you used?) you should get roughly 40% more power per unit area than using a single solar cell taking up the same area. I assume the array is pointing directly at the sun.

I'm unsure of your power figures, but I think there should be a measurable improvement, given all the assumptions above. If the cell has an antireflection coating then the above calculation won't be valid.

Posted at 15:24 UK time (Instructables seems to be adding 10 hours).

author
DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-08-02

This hypothetical appears to be in agreement with my data. Thanks for sharing.

In regards to angle, yes, you are correct to assume optimal angle to the source was maintained and the data relationship to the hypothesis degrades correlatively.

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thassaj made it!(author)2016-06-18

OK - here is an embarrassingly simple calculation for the maximum amount of improvement that should be possible. A silicon solar cell with sunlight hitting it at normal incidence has a reflectivity of about 23% (assuming 50:50 of s-polarized and p-polarized light). The figure comes from the Optics Communications paper in my previous post. This reflected light represents the lost energy that could be captured. So if 100% of light hits the solar cell, 23% gets reflected off and 77% is not reflected, then the largest increase we can have is going from 77% to 100%, which would be (100-77)/77 = about 30%. So assuming that our V configuration has a narrow enough angle that the vast majority of light is absorbed, that is the best we can do.

How narrow should the V be? If the V is 20 degrees, then it can be shown that there will be 9 reflections before the light bounces back out of the V. The number of reflections is I think 180/angle. But with reflectivity of 23%, after 3 reflections, the remaining reflected light is 0.23^3 = 1.22% (nearly nothing). So the tight angle with many cells is overkill.

The simplest V we can make is with two panels in a V taking up the place of one panel. Then the opening angle is I think then 60 degrees, leading to three reflections.

So we should see a maximum of a little under 30% increase in this configuration, and little if any improvement for more "Vs" (i.e., a tighter angle in the V and more solar cells per area).

I would appreciate it if someone could check this calculation!

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

Thanks for chiming in. I am preparing to test multiple angles experimentally and I will certainly take this into consideration. Thank you.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

Great idea! Like this? That is what I am working on now! Thanks!

leaf-foam.jpg
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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

What are photons?

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GuillermoG made it!(author)2016-07-05

A most rigorous research was made it by the MIT.

Maybe if you look ...

Article and paper:

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2012...

http://news.mit.edu/2012/three-dimensional-solar-e...

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privatier made it!(author)2016-06-28

While you get three times the voltage, which is not surprising if you understand how solar panels work, it's the power in watts, voltage times amperes, which is of interest, just look at your electricity bill. On commercial solar installations, there is an inverter which optimizes the watts by adjusting the loading on the array. In your case you have to find the optimum power manually by adjusting a load resistor.

The angle with which the sun shines on a solar array changes in the course of a day. For example I get 2.4kW at 12PM, 1kW at 5PM for my rooftop array. Your proposed arrangement of the panels is at a significant disadvantage in this respect, unless you install an automatic mechanical gizmo to track the sun.

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acheide made it!(author)2016-06-15

Nice Instructable. Most often, the resistance to solar energy comes from the expense of components and installation. What is the cost per area ratio between the two methods you evaluate? How about cost per output?

Thanks for a new idea.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-15

My pleasure. Costs vary depending on materials, and with reducing costs of solar cells and increasing property values, this method's viability will only increase. Thanks for reading.

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acheide made it!(author)2016-06-27

Not quite the answer I expected. Let me rephrase the question.

10 square feet of flat panels versus 10 square feet of your array. Obviously your array has more panels in the same area. Using the same size panels and given that the individual panels in both applications cost the same, how much does each arrangement cost per watt output in the same circumstances.

Amps x Volts = Watts

author
ybaggi made it!(author)2016-06-23

Inother issue I can see coming up is that of dirt accumulation in the troughs of the array.

is there a glass or acrylic material that would let some light pass through one direction and reflect it form the other? putting that on a flat pannel would also harness more of the otherwise wasted reflected light.

thanks for the experiement. great idea and execution.

author
ybaggi made it!(author)2016-06-23

Solar panels are far from cheap here in europe. about $2per nominal Watt.

One can come across $0.8 per watt but often used or destocking.

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jmnyquist made it!(author)2016-06-21

I don't have the materials on hand to do a proper testing of this, but my understanding of how solar panels operate would state that over the course of 24hrs, this stationary array vs a single panel tracking would have the single panel tracking producing the optimal end result. The provided datasheet appears to only be a single data point on a chart rather than an avg of kWh... I recognize your excitement and enthusiasm in this as a great benefit, but would like to see the empirical body of proof, a single test under 'optimal' conditions (directly down light) doesn't provide this to me.

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RicksterInstructables made it!(author)2016-06-17

Ingenious.

Do you actually have a resistive load on each? You mention you might?

You need to measure the power output, not just the voltage. Your six panels will "always" produce three times the voltage of two.

If you could run them to (chosen such that the current is what the panel vendor claims/recommends ( R = V / I ), you can then calculate the power produced by both.

P = V * I, though since that requires two meters, and R will be constant for each, it may be easier to record P = (V ^ 2) / R.

Remembering that you need to run both panels at a reasonable current in the range claimed by the vendor.

Please post your results!

author
DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

Data sheet can be found attached. Try it yourself and share your results with us. Thanks for reading!

author
RicksterInstructables made it!(author)2016-06-20

Uh, no, thank you. You gave the working prototype. You're the one making the claims. It is you that shout validating them. Please let us know your results.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-21

My data sheet can be found in step 6. Thanks for reading!

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JosteinL1 made it!(author)2016-06-17

Lots of constructive suggestions here. I think a comparison with a 2 panel flat setup and a 2 panel + 2 mirrors in v-shape panel-mirror-panel-mirror would be interesting.

if the area of flat panel and the array is is the same (from point of view of the light source) any increase in output would be easy to compare, while eleiminating shading and voltage drops.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

This was actually my proof of concept. I posted photos earlier in the comments. Check it out.

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Irwan2 made it!(author)2016-06-17

Hey there,

Just want to say, I love your idea. It still needs lot of improvements but the concept itself is great enough. The improvements will come later.

Keep up the good work. Thank you for sharing this.

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DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

My pleasure. This is just the beginning...

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UnclTodd made it!(author)2016-06-17

Drew, in the early 90's my screen printing partner and I were told by the "Industry" that 4-color process garment printing would never be practical... Never say "You can't do that" to someone who might be determined to prove you wrong! Please continue experimenting with techniques to salvage otherwise wasted solar energy!

author
DrewPaulDesigns made it!(author)2016-06-19

Thanks!

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Bio: I am a tech maniac; from media, marketing and design to alternative energy and more. Check out my website for links to all my projects.
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