CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Petru-Aurelian Simionescu, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is working with undergraduate engineering student Bryan Jaksik on a sun-tracking, solar-panel prototype that has a wider than normal range of motion. Also assisting in the project is Engineering Lab Coordinator John Gonzalez. The trio is working to measure the amount of energy captured by their 180-degree sun-tracking prototype, versus a stationary solar panel, which is the more commonly used arrangement.
“The idea behind our prototype is that it gets the maximum amount of direct sunlight as the sun travels in the sky from east to west,” stated Jaksik. “If we can catch the sunlight for that entire range of motion, we will get more power out of this photovoltaic panel.”
Simionescu and Jaksik expect the sun tracking solar panel to produce at least 30 percent more power than the stationary panel. Jaksik plans to apply these same principles to his upcoming capstone project in fall 2015. For the project, Jaksik, along with a team of other students, plans to scale up the sun tracking system to three times its size.
“With the scaling up of the prototype, Jaksik may encounter some problems. There will be additional electrical loads that he needs to account for, and wind loads that will be induced,” said Simionescu. “Also, the tracking mechanism and the power required will be increased, but even with all those elements, we expect a successful project.”
Visiting Professor Dr. Adrian Georgescu was involved with the start-up of this project. Together, Georgescu and Simionescu wrote a paper on this topic that was presented at a Renewable Energy Conference in Montreal, Canada, in Nov. 2014.