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# The solar tracker design brief

Dive into the world of engineering design with insights on the product lifecycle and conceptual design. Start learning now!

In this activity, you will consolidate your learning from activity 3 and think about what a designer would need to do in order to develop a conceptual design of a solar tracking apparatus.

The brief for this design problem is given below. Please carefully read the brief, then move on to the next step that will require you to understand and clarify the problem.

## What is a sun tracker?

The efficiency of solar panels, also called photovoltaic cells, such as those shown in the photograph below, in converting the energy of the sun’s light into electrical power depends on the angle of incidence of the sun’s rays on the panels.

A typical solar panel will produce maximum power when the rays are perpendicular to it as in part a of the diagram below, i.e. when the panel is facing the sun directly. If the rays fall at an angle, as in part b of the diagram, the panel’s output power decreases.

To obtain maximum power from the panel throughout the day, it must be rotated to track the sun’s movement from sunrise to sunset, so that the panel is directly facing the sun at each and every point in time.

The diagram above shows how solar panels are most effective:

• Part a shows that a solar panel produces maximum power when the sun’s rays are perpendicular to it.
• Part b shows that if the rays fall at an angle the output power decreases.

## The brief

The designer’s brief is to design a sun tracking apparatus that can support and rotate a solar panel so that it is always facing the sun. The apparatus should work correctly any day of the year, and at any geographic location on earth.

## Next step

In the next step, you will look at the problem by examining some of the physics – don’t worry, it will all be explained in simple terms!