A Guide to Solar Tracking

Solar Trackers have been around a long time, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them and most people don't know about their practical applications. More people than ever before are using solar power, and while grid-tied solar installations greatly outnumber off-grid solar, the number of off-grid users is still steadily growing. Depending on your situation, solar trackers have a number of possible benefits. Choosing the right kind of tracking mount is important. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of packaged tracking mount solutions.

Dark Star Solar Tracking Controller - Intro Videos

Dark Blue Android App - Part 1: Features and Parameters

This video introduced the various features and settings available with the DarkBlue app for operating the Dark Star dual axis solar tracking controller.

Dark Blue Android App - Part 2: Connecting and Editing Parameters

Is Off-Grid Solar cost effective for you?

Compound Parabolic Evacuated Tube Heater Experiment - Part 1

I thought I'd share a couple pictures of my latest water heating experiment. These evacuated tubes can be found fairly cheap, but making a manifold for a whole bunch of them is complicated and expensive. With just two evacuated tubes a couple simple Tee joints will do. If you've never played with these heat tubes, they really are amazing. Just like a glass thermos they insulate the central part from outside, and they have special low emissivity coating as well to make sure that they trap all incident heat radiation.

Home Automation Products and Solar Energy

A couple months ago I found out about the SmartThings V2 Home Automation Hub. Since then I've bought variety of HA products that I'm now using with my SmartThings Hub, and I've been learning quite about about all of the trends in home automation technology. Things have come a long way from the old X-10 devices. SmartThings seems be run by a very smart group of people that got their start from a KickStarter campaign that made them attractive to the likes of Samsung who quickly purchased the startup, and seems to be providing support to help them as well.

New Isolated Motor Driver Module

Our new HB v2 motor driver module is ideal for linear actuator control. It features fully isolated i/o and ground signals between MCU and the motor power circuit. Special circuitry even provides opto-isolation of the pulse signal to help prevent controller damage, while on-board +5v logic supply for Hall type pulse sensors provides broad compatibility and simplifies connections. Indicator LEDs help make testing simple. 300W rated MOSFETS with heat sinks and fuse protection make it safe and strong, while the 5cm size lets you squeeze a couple into your project box with no problems.

Dark Blue and Dark Star 2.0 Solar Tracking Controller

First there was the Tiny Tracker. Soon followed by the Tiny Tracker HD.
Then came the Track'n Park which introduced a programmable parking position.
Then came the Dark Star -- Dual axis Remote Controlled Solar tracker and remote sensor
It used a 315Mhz remote control with 12 buttons, but that was so '90s and just another thing to have to keep track of.

New 3D Printed Enclosure Lids

3d printed PETG plastic enclosure lid
Assembled 3d printed lid and enclosure

Our TinyTracker series and Track'nPark enclosures now feature a 3D printed PETG plastic lid that is superior to commercially available ones made of polypropylene or metal. To top it off we've also incorporated a durable silicone gasket for a perfect seal. While polypropylene lids appear to hold up for a couple of years, the plastic becomes brittle and can easily crack - leading to moisture possibly ruining your electronics. The metal lids we've tried have been both too thin, and not resistant to corrosion from outdoor exposure.

New TinyTracker Firmware Available

We're happy to release a new version of the TinyTracker firmware. Rev G as it's affectionately known effectively eliminates the need for other firmware versions! All of the possible tracking parameters are stored in EEPROM. Using a simple Arduino program all the parameters may be customized as desired. While the firmware upgrade process is a bit more involved since you have to setup the Arduino IDE, the benefits of full customization are worth it. As with our other firmware upgrades, you'll still need a USBasp or similar AVR programmer for transferring code to your TinyTracker device.

3d Printed Enclosures for TinyVCS and TDiff

Sometimes it's nice to put a little plastic around the electronics for protection as well as appearance. We've struggled with how to provide enclosures for some of our small electronics where we just don't have the volume to justify custom injection molded enclosures. Thanks to the 3D printing revolution, we've solved that problem! Our first offering is a nice little enclosure for the TinyVCS/Wind Trigger board.It has a small flange that can be drilled/screwed for mounting, and the two halves both snap together and are held by recessed screws on the top.

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