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Solar tracking

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Solar box cookers and solar panel cookers normally do not need to be turned to follow the sun unless you are cooking beans or an especially large amount of food. They may need to be moved slightly a couple times over a three or four hour cooking period. However, parabolic solar cookers require constant reorientation with the sun to remain effective cookers. If tracking the sun is necessary, some of the ideas below will serve this purpose.

350px|none|See Tracking Solar Accumulating Barbecue.

800by566Water Based Solar Tracker Diagram

Brian White's diagram of the dripper tracker which is potentially a highly accurate waterclock. Graphic by Mike Murphy.

SimpleSolarTracking's design for a simple system to reposition a solar cooker automatically while unattended.


]Tracking mechanism that uses the hour hand of a clock to control the turning of a solar cooker

Solar Water Clock Drive

A plan for a solar water clock drive submitted by

Solar Oven Repositing Device V1-0

Solar oven repositioning device designed by Jeff Monaco. Tom Sponheim suggested using wax melting instead to remove the need for a magnifying glass.

SolarOvenRepositingDevice V2-0

Tom Sponheim suggested using wax melting instead to remove the need for a magnifying glass


Gimp equa float pistons

Provisionally called liquid piston tracker

Von Oppen tracking diagram

The Von Oppen system uses a half filled bottle to act as a floating piston, which drops when the water is slowly drained from the reservoir.

Scheffler Community Kitchen clockwork tracking system

Scheffler tracking mechanicals, 2-9-13

The Scheffler clockwork tracking system mechanicals

Simply Solar provides explanation of their various tracking systems at Scheffler tracking systems. The mechanical system incorporates a clockwork mechanism, and often uses recycled bicycle parts. It is run by a weight and controlled by a pendulum. Resetting the reflector back from the evening position to the morning position is done by hand. They also offer photovoltaic options as well.

See Scheffler Community Kitchen.

Programable tracking systems

Still in its infancy, programable tracking systems are being developed with software to not only rotate the reflector to maintain maximum exposure to the sun, but to also control cooking time and desired temperatures.

Photovoltaic tracking systems

Solar Tracker circuit schematic

A photovoltaic solar tracking circuit schematic provided by Marian Popescu

A clever system has been developed by several designers, which uses two photovoltaic panels configured to maintain an even balance of power to a small electrical turntable motor. The required photovoltaic panels typically are fairly small, and are placed side by side, but at slightly different angles to face the sun. As the sun moves across the sky one panel will begin to receive less direct sunlight.

The resulting electrical imbalance causes the dominant panel to engage the motor. The turntable will rotate until both photovoltaic panels face the sun equally, and the motor disengages. The simple system can be fairly lightweight for rotating a box or panel cooker. However, a larger parabolic solar cooker, which will benefit the most from a good tracking system, will require a stronger motor and larger panels to rotate the cooker.

More information about the system designed by Marian Popescu can be found at DIY solar tracking system

Audio and video

CATASSOL automatizado 100:44

CATASSOL automatizado 1

Pleno Sol provides a short demonstration of the photovoltaic tracking system they have developed.


  • December 2010: Programable system tracks the sun, and turns the reflector away when cooking is completed.


March 2011: Box cooker rotated by PV panels sending power to 12 volt motor. As one PV panel begins to receive less light, it sends less power to the servo, which operates the motor until both panels are a sending balanced power stream.
April 2010: UC Berkeley student tracking system demonstration
March 2010: Tracking Solar Accumulating Barbecue - Brian White
May 2008: Clock based dripper tracker demo
June 2006: Dripper tracker for parabolic solar accumulator

See also

External links

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