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Providing a Reliable Solar Tracking System using Robust Computing Platforms


Project Introduction:
Solar power is a hot topic these days and many governments even offer subsidies to accelerate its acceptance. However, one of the primary obstacles holding back the popularity of solar power is its inefficiency: the quantity of solar power energy is relative to the angle of sunshine and non-concentrating flat panels generate low amounts of electric power directly from the sun. Therefore, to increase the amount to sunlight captured, solar tracking technology is increasingly being applied as a more efficient solar power generating solution because it can collect solar energy for an increased period of time as the sun's position shifts through the day and with the seasons. In order to obtain the maximum amount of energy from each panel, such solar tracking system needs a powerful embedded PC as its core to conduct complex dataanalysis and calculation to accurately control the system as well as implementing a redundant architecture to ensure its reliable operation.

System Requirements:
A PV system integrator based in Central China planned to engage the solar industry and design its own tracking system. Due to the required level of accuracy the system needed to use a high performance automation computer to not only compute the massive amount of meteorological information and the intensity of sunlight but also to totally control the complex system which includes various measuring instruments, light sensors, network switches, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). The system also required a small sized computer with better heat dissipation so that engineers could develop more cost-effective tracking solutions. This customer chose China's Northwest Region where it’s very cold in the winter but dry in the summer as its experimental location, meaning that the tracking system and all of the related devices had to withstand the pressure of an extreme environment.

System Description:
Advantech provided multiple UNO-2182 high-performance controllers with Intel® Core® 2 Duo processors and multiple networking interfaces to construct a rugged solution as the core of the solar tracking system. Four UNO-2182 devices are used for PLC control management and each has to connect to 18 PLCs through fiber optical switches. Another UNO-2182 is in charge of the data collection to acquire the signals from measuring devices and light sensors; this computer can also be used as a backup machine when the network connection has beendisabled on the others. The UNO-2182 supports a wide operating temperature range from -10°C to 60°C enables this solution to endure the harsh weather conditions as well as providing an embedded Application Ready Platform (ARP) that can shorten user’s development time. Furthermore, its fanless design, compact size and low-power features can meet the customer’s higher specification. The system also included the DiagAnywhere remote monitoring software. With both a client and server utility, DiagAnywhere can remotely control and configure up to 24 windows based devices from any remote office, over the Internet.  This software has many features such as a UDP broadcast search across the LAN, remotely check the status of the devices, and for any devices that have ATX power they can be remotely shutdown and woken up . It was with the inclusion of this softwarethat the client felt confident that they could manage their devices from wherever they were.

Project Implementation:

UNO-2182 Intel® Core™ 2 Duo/ Pentium® M/ Celeron® M Automation Computers with 2 x GbE, 4 x COM, DVI

System Diagram:

Advantech has been involved in this project since the development phase of solar tracking system. Over a year of rigorous testing the customer was very impressed by the equipments reliability and stability. The UNO-2182’s performance effectively enhanced the stability of the customer’s system and also won their trust to continue using the UNO in other applications such as solar projects in Xiamen, Qinghai, and Hainan. With the expanding market share of China’s vendors, Advantech’s excellent products definitely can help PV System Integrators gain moreprojects and business opportunities