Managing solar power systems with SunAir boards

SunTracker 3D Print Build

A great application of the SunAir project is to build a solar-powered Raspberry Pi or Arduino. One such application at SwitchDoc Labs is SunTracker (Figure 8), a 3D-printed box and case on which to mount a solar panel. It is controlled by a SunAir board in conjunction with a Raspberry Pi/Arduino and uses photoresistors and a stepper motor to turn the top, which holds the solar panel, toward the sun. Figures 9 and 10 show how to hook SunAir up to a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino. See the "Other Modules" section for modifications to connect a stepper motor rather than a servomotor. The software for driving the SunTracker box is on SwitchDoc Labs GitHub repository under SunTracker [4]. You can watch a video of the SunAir SunTracking system at work on YouTube [19].

Figure 8: SunAir SunTracker.
Figure 9: Hooking up a Raspberry Pi.
Figure 10: Hooking up an Arduino.

3D Printing SunTracker

After learning how to 3D print version 2 of the MouseAir project I was much more confident in designing the SunTracker case and box. Once again, I used OpenSCAD [20] to do the design.

If you are unfamiliar with OpenSCAD, check out one of the many great tutorials on the web or my MouseAir article [21]. Figure 11 shows the full SunTracker OpenSCAD design. The OpenSCAD 3D printing files can be found on GitHub under the SunTracker repository [4].

Figure 11: SunTracker in OpenSCAD.

The most difficult section of the 3D printing project was the case top containing the photoresistors, light tubes, and solar panels. I needed a way to route the wires, and I came up with the idea of printing in the channels under the case, which sits on the stepper motor shaft and a circle of plastic on the box top (the circle is for both the top case and for waterproofing). Figure 12 shows the finished SunTracker top with the wiring channels.

Figure 12: SunTracker top with wire channels.

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