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Design of PLC based tracking system to maximize solar energy conversion Mostefa Ghassoul M.I.E.E.E. EMAIL: gmostefa@hayoo.

com Abstract: This paper presents a design of a programmable logic controller (PLC) tracking system where the solar energy captured is optimized. The system is based on a Siemens micro PLC. One of the main advantages of the machine is that it can deliver pulses as short as one millisecond. The PLC controls two light dependent resistors. One detects the optimal inclination angle towards the sun, and the second guides the cells to follow it. Keywords: programmable logic controller ,optimization, solar energy, tracking system. Introduction: Solar energy has been used for the last few decades and certainly, it will be in the future especially with the diminishing alternative resources. But it is still suffering from few draw backs. The first one is the relatively high cost, the second is the low cell efficiency which does not exceed 30% at present and the third is the optimum positioning of the solar panels so that they capture maximum sun rays. Few attempts were made to optimize the panel positioning. One is by choosing a fixed angle is such a way to give the best energy on average during a single day. A second technique is orienting the panels towards the sun all the time. This is done by using a continuous running timer, delivering variable short bursts at a predetermined period distributed over the day. Although this technique has improved efficiency, it is still suffering a draw back where most of the time the movement of the panel consumes more energy than it gives(1). This paper discusses a solution to this problem. It presents an optimal technique to position the panels so that the maximum solar energy is extracted and at the same time, the panels are rotated only if the new position delivers sufficient extra energy more than that consumed by the rotator itself. System design: The technique depends on two light sensors. The first one is mounted on the solar panels and the second on a miniature electric motor which only draws a very small current and is used to scan for maximum induced voltage possible. When the sun rises in the morning, both panels and miniature motor are oriented to the east. This position is detected by two sensors. A light dependent resistor(LDR) detects the sun rise and a proximity switch detects the position. The miniature motor then rotates through a fixed angle with predetermined time. Both time and are set by PLC software. On the pulse rising edge, the sensor voltage is recorded using the S200 PLC EM235 12bits ADC module, and stored in one of the PLC data word. When the pulse falls, the new sensor voltage is also recorded and stored into a second data word. The two are then compared. If the later is bigger then the first, the pilot sensor stays in the new position; but if it is less, then it returns to the former position by applying the same pulse in the reverse order. Once the new pilot position is determined, the panel voltage is read using the second channel of the PLC ADC and stored into a third data word on the driving pulse falling edge (ie after updating the reading). It is then compared with that of the pilot sensor.


Figure(2) pilot and panel motors drive Sun set and rise capture: The sun rise and set detection is fairly simple. It is done using a light dependent resistor. When the sun rises, the resistance decreases;( the circuit used is shown in figure(3)) so the transistor base current increases and turns it on, which in turn increases the collector current, so that the relay closes and connects the 24V to the input(I0.0) to the PLC indicating the presence of the sun rise. And when darkness comes, the resistance increases reducing the base current and cuts the current to the relay which in turns disconnects the 24V from the PLC input. The diode is used to protect the transistor against the di/dt effect.
24V +V 12V +V

Motor drive: The motor drive basically consists of two normally closed/normally open relays, driven from the PLC through its outputs Q0.0 and Q0.1. When the PLC output Q0.0 is high, the upper relay normally open output closes, so that the battery delivers current through the normally closed contact of the bottom relay, to the motor through the top end then through the normally open contact of the top relay and back to the battery. So the motor rotates clockwise. When Q0.1 is activated, the bottom normally open contact closes, so that the current flows from the battery through the bottom relay, entering the motor from the bottom end and back to the battery through the top relay.( because the switching time is not critical, the two relays do the job quite well. In the case where it is critical, the two relays could be replaced by a transistor bridge). The two diodes are


R3 BC108BP R2

figure(3) sun rise and fall capture Figure(4) shows the itinerary of the system movement during the full day,

If it is less, then it rotates to the pilot position, so it takes the new position where energy is maximized. But if it is equal or bigger, then it maintains its current position. This procedure repeats itself with each driving pulse during the day until the evening proximity switch is activated, indicating the maximum permissible angle beyond which the panels are no longer facing the sun. This precautionary measure has been taken so to accommodate the day length between summer and winter By now the system is oriented towards the west waiting for sun set. Once the sun sets, it activates a PLC flip flop, which activates both the pilot and the panels drives, which in turn guide the system to rotate in the opposite direction until they face the east again where they activate a proximity switch which resets the PLC flip flop stopping the drives. A block diagram of the tracking system is shown in figure(1).

used to protect the PLC output against any (di/dt) burst. (refer to figure2).



and when the panels stay stationary and when they miss the movement. When the system hits the end course proximity switch, it rotates back to the initial position. Few words about the program: The program to drive the system is shown in figure(5). It is developed using the ladder diagram. It is divided into rungs. The first six networks represent the clock generator. The clock could be varied by software as required, where pulses as short as one milliseconds could be obtained, thanks to the special timers which one can only find in the S200 PLC in the entire Siemens PLC spectrum. networks7 and 8 detect the sun rise as well as making sure that the system is facing east.(ie synchronized to the sun rise) by the start proximity switch(I0.2 and I0.3) and deliver the required output to pilot sensor (Q0.1). For the rest of the networks, the pilot sensor voltage is read on the leading and trailing edges then compared to determine the required position. At the same time the panel sensor voltage is read and compared with the pilot sensor voltage in order to determine its new position. When they reach the maximum deflection, they wait for sun set sensor(I0.3). If active, they return back to the original position and wait for following day.

position allows the extraction of more energy than that consumed by the rotors. At the same time, the equipment cost has to be kept down. The design is based around a S200 Siemens micro PLC. The choice of this machine is because of its low price and mostly, the fast timers which could deliver control bursts as narrow as one millisecond. The prototype of the system has been designed, built and tested. Although more tests are required to prove whether it is worthwhile, it has given encouraging results. Words of Thanks: My warm thanks go to Mohamed Ghassoul, my older son who has spent a lot of time with the computer and scanner helping me preparing this manuscript. Special thanks also goes to my students at the College of Technology at Dammam who helped me building the prototype and test it. References: 1- Programmable logic controllers by E.A.Par 1996 published by Newnes 2- A programmable logic system to control a solar panel to pump water from a well M.Ghassoul and F Radwan 5th TEM KFUPM pp 67-70 3- S7-200 programmable controller system manual by Siemens 1998 4-Programmable logic devices and logic controllers by E.Mandado & co published by Prentice Hall 1996 5-

Conclusions: A cost effective sun tracking system to extract maximum possible energy, has been discussed, where the solar panels are only moved when the new

Pilot sensor original position

Pilot sensor new position




start proximity switch


Evening proximity switch s Figure(1): tracking system to determine the maximum sun inclining angle
Start proximity switch Sun rise
End of course proximity switch

Pilot sensor on

Solar panel following The pilot

Solar panel Not following the pilot

End course proximity switch

Figure(4) Chronogram of the pilot and panel movement

// //PROGRAM TITLE COMMENTS // //Press F1 for help and example program // NETWORK 1 //NETWORK TITLE (single line) // //NETWORK COMMENTS // LDN M0.2 A I0.0 EU S M0.1, 1 NETWORK 2 LD M0.1 TON T39, +100 = Q0.0 NETWORK 3 LD T39 R M0.1, 1 NETWORK 4 LDN M0.1 EU S M0.2, 1 NETWORK 5 LD M0.2 TON T40, +130 NETWORK 6 LD T40 R M0.2, 1 NETWORK 7 LD I0.2 A I0.3 S M0.3, 1 NETWORK 8 LD M0.3 A M0.1 = Q0.1 NETWORK 9 LD Q0.1 LPS EU MOVW AIW0, VW10 LPP ED MOVW AIW2, VW12 NETWORK 10



VW10, VW12 M0.4, 1 AIW4, VW14

NETWORK 11 LD M0.4 TON T41, +20 NETWORK 12 LD T41 R M0.4, 1 NETWORK 13 LD I0.4 R M0.3, 1 NETWORK 14 LDN I0.3 A I0.4 S M0.5, 1 NETWORK 15 LD Q0.1 ED AW>= VW12, VW14 S M0.6, 1 NETWORK 16 LD M0.5 = Q0.4 NETWORK 17 LD M0.5 O M0.4 = Q0.2 NETWORK 18 LD M0.6 = Q0.3 NETWORK 19 LD M0.6 TON T42, +60 NETWORK 20 LD T42 R M0.6, 1 NETWORK 21 LD I0.2 R M0.5, 1 NETWORK 22 MEND

Figure (5) listing of the program using statement list 5