Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2012

First Advisor

Hohyun Lee


The adoption of solar power technologies throughout the world is increasing rapidly. Solar trackers are a necessary component in Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) applications and have also shown up to 46% per annum energy increase in photovoltaic (PV) panels when compared with fixed mounted panels. To resist wind forces, trackers typically incorporate heavy structural components and reinforced concrete foundations. Thus, the manufacture and installation of trackers is costly due to their size, weight, and careful consideration of geological conditions. This work presents a new solar tracker design for use with concentrating solar power and photovoltaic panels. The tracker is comprised of two coplanar perpendicular linear actuators and one linkage arm that can track the sun in two axes. A hybrid control strategy combines time and location based solar position estimates, with a two-axis misalignment sensor for a robust control strategy. Part cost is lowered by the low profile tracker geometry by allowing lighter structural and actuation components to combat gusty conditions, and installation costs are reduced by the wide footprint of the system, mitigating the need for deep foundations. A tracker prototype is built and tested for functionality and tracking accuracy. Testing shows an average mechanical pointing hysteresis of 0.05 [degrees]. The tracker is outfitted with a parabolic mirror and blackbody receiving cavity, and in full sun reaches a steady-state temperature of 670 [degrees] C.