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Low-Tech Solar Panel Rotator Boosts Output 40%

In order to get the most amount of energy from solar panels, they need to stay facing the sun as it moves through the sky.

Most of the time, they are mounted at a fixed angle and orientation so that they will have good exposure for part of the day and most of the year, because adding a solar tracker with a motor isn’t affordable or feasible.

When small solar panel setups are the only power source that people have, such as in the developing world, getting the most electricity out of them every day is really important. But short of manually adjusting the angle of the panels throughout the day, there hasn’t been a decent solution for a low-tech solar tracking device, until now.

Thanks to the efforts of a young female inventor and entrepreneur, Eden Full, an affordable and effective automatic solar panel tracking mechanism is in the works, and it’s not only cheap to make, but it can be built with local materials.

The SunSaluter has a variety of advantages over the alternatives, not the least of which is the cost (less than $20), but also because it’s designed so that anyone can put one together and maintain it, and it can be retrofitted to any existing solar panel with just a few adjustments.

Full’s invention uses two types of metal strips connected to the brackets holding the panel, and as they heat up in the sun, the design uses their natural differential expansion rates to move the panels for maximum efficiency. Adding a SunSaluter to a solar panel can boost the power production by up to 40%, which can be a significant amount, considering that the PV panel might be the sole power source in a household.

And most recently, a new version of the SunSaluter has been developed that can also address another pressing issue in the developing world – clean water. The new model replaces the metal strips with two metal tanks:

“Water is poured into one tank and flows through a filter into the second tank. The movement of the water turns the solar panels, and a valve controls the flow so that it matches the rate at which the sun moves. At the end of the day, each SunSaluter produces four liters of clean water as well as solar energy.” – Princeton Alumni Weekly

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