Author Topic: PC based Arduino Sun Harvester Program Interface / Solar Radiation Data Analysis  (Read 7358 times)

Gabriel

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Sun Tracking / Heliostat Arduino Interface Program


I've been working on this program for two or three months now, and it has finally reached the point that it is more or less useable. The video should be a reasonably good explanation for how to use it, although I didn't go super in depth since things will likely change quite a bit as time goes on.

Since making the video (hurricane Sandy knocked out my internet for awhile so I couldn't upload it) , I have already fixed the graph bug which didn't show all of the months. Also, ignore the Simple, Cube, etc buttons on the right side of the Solar Radiation Data Analysis Window. For now, using them could be a good way to crash the program. In general, the ctrl + alt + delete trick for forcing a program to close might be a good thing to remember when using it.


There are three attachments to this post:

The "Arduino Heliostat Control PC Interface Program.zip" file holds the program that will install on a typical PC computer and is what is shown in the video. I think I included all of the necessary files, but let me know if you have trouble installing it.

The "Heliostat Power Output.zip" folder holds the source code. The program was written with Visual C#, so you will have to download it if you want to help improve the code. The free Express version of Visual C# should be fine. I haven't added much in the way of comments yet, so good luck figuring out how it all works.  ???

The "SunTracker_Heliostat_Program_V097_d_XBEE" folder contains the program that must be uploaded to the Arduino if you want to experiment with connecting the PC to the Arduino. Note that although the program says XBee in its name, you can also just plug in with a USB cable, and it will work exactly the same.


The below link goes to the website where I am getting the solar radiation data if you want to try it for your location. Unfortunately, I don't know where to find similar data for other countries besides the US. If you know of something, please let me know.
http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1991-2005/hourly/list_by_state.html

Here also is the link to the PDF which is the User's Manual for the above data. It's definitely worth a read if you are into this sort of thing.
http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/41364.pdf

I think that covers everything for now. I should have more in the coming months.

UPDATE: (3/25/2014)
It's a bit overdue, but I have finally had the chance to both update and document this program.

Strictly speaking, the Arduino interface portion of the program has not been modified (although it needs to be); however, massive changes have been made to the "Solar Radiation Data Analysis" parts of the program.

UPDATE: (3/25/2014)
It's a bit overdue, but I have finally had the chance to both update and document this program.

Strictly speaking, the Arduino interface portion of the program has not been modified (although it needs to be); however, massive changes have been made to the "Solar Radiation Data Analysis" parts of the program.

You can read the full documentation for this update at this link.

The updated files can be found attached to this post below.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the normal executable file that will install the program on your computer.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the source code which you can use if you wish to modify the program or perhaps double check my work.

The updated files can be found attached to this post below.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the normal executable file that will install the program on your computer.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the source code which you can use if you wish to modify the program or perhaps double check my work.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 08:10:54 PM by Gabriel »


Paul L

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Hey Gabriel,

   Nice work on the program - I have no idea how you do the things you do!  Looks like I'll have to wait to use it though - my Windows Update has been struggling with Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 for years, and always crashes out before it's done updating.  I spent a few hours last night trying to remedy it, but no go.  Shame, the program looks very cool and I'm itching to try it out.   



Bob101

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Hey Gabriel,

Really nice looking program! Impressive stuff displaying a 3D model of what is going on, should be great for debugging. The simulation is super useful for me as it allows me to check how my machine should behave for the entire day before I set it going during the testing phase. Might help me spot some potentially dangerous self-crashing scenarios before they occur. Thanks a lot. Also allows me to figure out how the machine should behave in other countries before we actually drive it out there and rely on it!

Although I do not live in the US the data analysis section of this program is one of the most interesting things. There has been a long raging debate on my thread (at motorhomefun) as to how much power a tracker will get as compared to a static panel laying flat on a motorhome roof. The power used in tracking (at one move per 30 mins or 60 mins) should be fairly negligible and in any case I can measure this once and it will be pretty constant for most days. What does seriously interest me is using this US data to "simulate" a year of a tracking panel (which is what their data is) vs a year of a static panel.

Feature request: Would it be possible to add to the solar radiation graph the power that would be given by a static panel pointing in a single direction? I know your focus is heliostats but I would really like to see this for a static solar panel. Maybe you could add something like a duplicate of your "target" settings but do the calculations for a static panel pointing in that direction? Then I would be able to dispel the argument that "a tracker isn't worth the effort".

Hope all is going well!  :)

Gabriel

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Feature request: Would it be possible to add to the solar radiation graph the power that would be given by a static panel pointing in a single direction?

Yes it would definitely be possible, and not even very difficult. It's on my list for the next time I sit down and start working on the program.

Bob101

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Thanks! Looking forward to checking this out and seeing if it matches my measurements (once my machine is finished).


Gabriel

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UPDATE: (3/25/2014)
It's a bit overdue, but I have finally had the chance to both update and document this program.

Strictly speaking, the Arduino interface portion of the program has not been modified (although it needs to be); however, massive changes have been made to the "Solar Radiation Data Analysis" parts of the program.

You can read the full documentation for this update at this link.

The updated files can be found attached to this post below.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the normal executable file that will install the program on your computer.
"Heliostat Power Output 2.zip" is the source code which you can use if you wish to modify the program or perhaps double check my work.

« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 08:10:16 PM by Gabriel »

soufiane

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Hello !
First I just want to thank you for the awesome work you released.
Is it possible to tell me what are material references used in this realisation?
I'll appreciate your answer.

Thankyou in advance.

Gabriel

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Hi soufiane,

I don't think I had much in the way of references for this program aside from the ones shared in the first post. The programming behind it is all relatively basic math stuff, so it was all basically done from scratch.

Is that what you are looking for?

Thanks
Gabriel

soufiane

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Hello Gabriel,

Thanks for your answer,
Actually I'm asking about Arduino reference and driver gear used (I mean all "hardware" references") and equipment used to establish soft/hard communication. In a pedagogical context we are willing to realise the hole thing.

Thank you again

Gabriel

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Hi Soufiane,

I think what you are looking for is the stuff near the top at this link. Correct?
http://www.cerebralmeltdown.com/open-sun-harvesting-project

Take Care,
Gabriel

soufiane

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Hello Gabriel,
Thank you for taking the time directing me.
We are using an arduino mega 2560 and we burned the software you delivered on it. Now we are stuck with the hardware part.. Actually my question was about engines and steppers motors you used and how you did plug it... Is there any information you can share regarding the hardware installation please?

Thank you in advance

(PS: sorry if my english is not correct)

Nottingham

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Thanks for the program Gabriel. Does your software work on the latest Windows 10 and does it still work properly?

Gabriel

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I haven't tried it in awhile, but I was able to install it on my Windows 10 machine and use it without any issue at all. Thanks!