Hong Huang (Committee Member), James Menart (Advisor), Daniel Young (Committee Member)
Master of Science in Renewable and Clean Energy Engineering (MSRCE)
Solar Energy is a renewable energy source which is used widely in recent times. Photovoltaic panels collect the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity. Photovoltaic panels are being widely used in both domestic applications, commercial applications, and small-scale power generation applications. Photovoltaic panels are easy to install, they generate most of their power when electrical demands peak, prices of photovoltaic panels are dropping rapidly, photovoltaic panels require low maintenance, their operating costs are minimal, and they are highly suitable for remote applications. The amount of electricity produced by photovoltaic panels depends on the amount of sunlight the panel captures. The orientation of the panel relative to the sun’s rays is an important consideration in optimizing this energy collection. This thesis deals with developing analytic equations that determine the optimum orientation of solar panels including the effects of a clear-atmosphere. This is done for three types of tracking: two-axis tracking, single, horizontal east-west axis tracking, and single, horizontal north-south axis tracking. While doing a literature search on the development of analytic equations that determine the optimum orientation of solar panels, it was found that Braun and Mitchell were the first to develop the equations that determine the optimum orientation of solar panels using the three types of tracking mentioned above. They developed these equations assuming there is no atmosphere on earth and that there is no reflection of the sun’s rays off the earth’s surface. Thus, the only component of solar radiation that they considered was that coming in a straight path from the sun to the earth, this is called beam radiation. The no-atmosphere optimum solar panel orientation equations have been around for decades and they are in many textbooks on solar energy. At this time, it appears that analytical relationships that account for the effects of the atmosphere on the optimum tilt angle of solar panels do not exist. Including the effects of the atmosphere adds two more components of solar energy to the total solar energy striking the solar panel. The beam radiation component still exists, but now diffuse solar radiation from the sun scattered by the atmosphere and all radiation from the sun reflected by the ground need to be included in any optimum tilt angle equation. Depending on the magnitude of these three types of solar radiation, the optimum panel orientation may be tilted slightly up to the sky to collect more diffuse radiation or tilted slightly down to the ground to collect more ground reflected radiation. This work derives and presents such equations for two-axis tracking, single, horizontal east-west axis tracking, and single, horizontal north-south axis tracking including the effects of a clear atmosphere. A clear-atmosphere is one in which there are no clouds. Including atmospheric effects in an analytical equation make this work unique from all the other optimum tilt angle work that has been performed for solar panels in the past. After the analytical equations for the optimum tilt angles including the effects of a clear-atmosphere have been derived and presented for the three tracking cases mentioned above, a great deal of results are presented using these three equations. Results for a year and for a single day are presented. These results show that the differences in the optimum tilt angles determined by the no-atmosphere equations of Braun and Mitchell and the optimum tilt angles determined by the clear-atmosphere equations developed in this work are close to one another, but not the same. That is, the atmosphere changes the optimum tilt angles by up to 12.3 degrees. While the differences in the optimum tilt angle for no-atmosphere and clear-atmosphere may not be much, it costs nothing to readjust the solar panel to i...
Department or Program
Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Year Degree Awarded
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