Solar Radiation and Sun Tracking

Solar Radiation and Sun Tracking are two of the most important concepts of solar energy fundamentals. A deep understanding of these concepts not only helps you to design and optimize solar energy systems, but also to appreciate the benefits and challenges of harnessing the sun’s power. But what do they mean? Let’s understand the basics of solar radiation and sun tracking in this comprehensive blog.

Solar radiation is the electromagnetic energy emitted by the sun, which varies depending on the location, time, season, and weather conditions.

At the same time, Sun tracking is the technique of orienting solar panels or collectors to follow the sun’s position and maximize the solar radiation received.

By learning about these concepts, you can gain a better insight into the potential and limitations of solar energy as a renewable and clean source of electricity and heat. So, let’s dive deeper into these concepts.

Concept 1: Understanding Solar Radiation

In this section, we will understand the concept of Solar Radiation, its types, and its advantages.

Solar Radiation Definition

Solar radiation can be defined as the electromagnetic energy emitted by the sun, which varies depending on the location, time, season, and weather conditions.

The sun’s energy affects the earth in many ways, both visible and invisible. For example, it enables plants to make their own food through photosynthesis, which is vital for life on Earth.

It also regulates the earth’s climate by keeping it warm enough for living things to survive. Moreover, it creates wind patterns that can be harnessed for generating wind power.

Types of Solar Radiation

The types of Solar Radiation are classified into two broad categories: Based on the form it reaches the earth and the type of light.

Here are types of solar radiation depending on the form it reaches the earth:

  • Direct solar radiation: This is the radiation that travels straight from the sun to the earth, without being scattered or absorbed by anything in the atmosphere.
  • Diffuse solar radiation: This is the radiation that gets scattered by gases, clouds, dust, or other particles in the atmosphere and reaches the earth from different directions.
  • Reflected solar radiation: This is the radiation that bounces back from the earth’s surface, due to a phenomenon called the albedo effect.

Here are types of Solar Radiation Depending on the light:

  • Infrared Radiation (IR): This type of radiation has a longer wavelength than visible light, and it carries heat energy. Any object that has a temperature above absolute zero (0º Kelvin) emits infrared radiation.
  • Visible Light (VI): This is the type of radiation that we can see with our eyes, and it consists of different colors (red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and violet). Each color has a different wavelength and energy, with red being the longest and lowest, and violet being the shortest and highest.
  • Ultraviolet Radiation (UV): This type of radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light, and it is invisible to the human eye. It has a high energy and can cause damage to the skin (burns, spots, wrinkles).

Advantages of Solar Radiation 

There are several advantages of solar radiation you should know –

  • It provides substantial light and balances the Earth’s temperature, providing the necessary heat.
  • It provides clean and renewable energy that can be converted and stored as electricity.
  • Solar radiation is required for the photosynthesis process.

Concept 2: Understanding Sun Tracking

Solar, or Sun tracking is the technique of orienting solar panels or collectors to follow the sun’s position and maximize the solar radiation received. To get the most out of solar power, there are solar tracking systems available. The solar tracker kit includes PV Cells, signal processing units, PLC, sensors, electromagnetic & mechanical motion control modules, and power supply systems.

Types of a Solar Tracker

Solar Trackers are divided into three types based on the way they work:

  • Passive Tracking Devices
  • Active Tracking Devices
  • Open Loop Trackers (controlled algorithms or simple timing systems)

At the same time, Open Loop Trackers are further classified into two types:

  • Timed Trackers
  • Altitude / Azimuth Trackers

Solar Trackers are further categorized based on sun-tracking solar panel mount –

  • Single-Axis Solar Trackers
  • Dual-Axis Solar Trackers

Advantages of Solar Tracking Systems

Let’s look at some potential benefits of solar tracking systems:

  • Enhanced Output: Solar panels can produce more energy with the help of solar energy trackers. These devices follow the sun’s movement and increase the exposure to sunlight. The output varies depending on the location of the panels.
  • Green & Clean Power: Solar energy trackers provide a simple and eco-friendly way to harness the sun’s power. The higher output meets our energy needs in a sustainable way.
  • Land Efficiency: Solar trackers can make the best use of the land available for solar installations. They can generate more electricity than the panels without trackers while using the same amount of space. Easy
  • Control: You can monitor the performance of your solar tracking system from your computer anytime.

Cost of Solar Tracking Systems

Solar trackers can significantly raise the price of a photovoltaic solar installation. For example, a typical 4-kilowatt ground-mounted solar tracking system using Arduino would cost around $13,000.

However, if you add tracking equipment to each panel, the price can range from $500 to over $1,000 per panel. This means that a single-axis tracking system for the same array would increase the price to about $20,000. That’s a 57% increase in the price for only 35% more solar output.

A dual-axis tracking system would be even more expensive, costing about $26,000. That’s twice as much as the fixed ground-mounted system.

Is Solar Tracker Worth the Investment?

If you want to make the most of the solar energy available in your location, you might want to install a solar tracker that allows your panels to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day. This can significantly boost the power output of your solar panel system, whether it is mounted on the ground or on the roof.

However, solar trackers are not suitable for every solar panel system. You need to take into account factors such as weather, space, and shading before deciding on a solar tracker. Solar trackers are ideal for systems that have limited space and high energy needs.

Solar trackers also offer more benefits for systems that are located in higher latitudes, where the sun’s position changes more throughout the year. Moreover, solar trackers are often used in large-scale commercial projects. Depending on the location and climate of your system, solar trackers can be very beneficial.

Best Solar Tracking Systems to Buy in 2023

Below is a list of some best solar tracking systems that can be the best buy in 2023:

Robotistan – Solar Tracker System using Arduino

This solar tracking system kit comes with a Robotistan Uno R3 microcontroller, LDR, servos, and moving parts for tracking the sunlight all the time.

Price $69
Review 3.3/5 based on 20 reviews
What Included Manual book
                                                                               Buy Now

KEYESTUDIO DIY Solar Tracking Electronic Kit for Arduino

This kit is an Arduino-based project that uses 4 ambient light sensors, a solar panel, and 2 DOF servos to convert light energy into electrical energy and charge devices. It has a module that can charge your smartphone, a sensor that can measure temperature and humidity, a BH1750 light sensor, a buzzer, an LCD1602 display, a push button module, an LED module, and more.

Price $69
Review 3.3/5 based on 20 reviews
What Included Manual book, Complete graphic description
                                                                                  Buy Now


Solar trackers can increase the efficiency and output of solar panels by reducing the angle of incidence and capturing more direct and diffuse radiation. However, solar trackers also have some drawbacks, such as higher initial cost, maintenance, and energy consumption.

Therefore, the feasibility and benefits of using solar trackers depend on various factors, such as the type and location of the solar system, the availability and cost of land, and the environmental and economic conditions.

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