Design of a solar energy harvesting system for structural health monitoring systems
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The work described in this thesis discusses the design of a solar energy harvesting system to support a structural health monitoring system. The objective was to design a photovoltaic system capable of powering a wireless gateway and cellular modem, a static DC 14W load, while meeting certain functional and energy requirements for deployment on a bridge. A literature review of the application, technologies, components, and latest innovations in solar energy technology was completed. A methodology for designing a system for attaching energy harvesting systems onto bridges while meeting design requirements is presented as a tool for engineers and students. The use of the tool was demonstrated through a study which revealed that the methodology aided in producing concepts that were higher in quality, quantity, and better met design requirements. A PV array performance model was used to determine the proper PV module size, battery bank size, panel orientation, the usefulness of a solar tracker and MPPT charge controller, and whether the use of two separate PV modules with independent geometric orientations provide better performance as compared to a single larger panel. It was found from the study that the optimal PV system design specifications were a 120W Polycrystalline PV panel, a 120 A-hr LiFePO4 battery bank, a 45 degree tilt and 0 degrees solar azimuth angle (south), and an MPPT controller. The results from the analytical model also showed that the maximum energy produced with two independent panels would be at a solar azimuth angle of 0 degrees (south) and tilt angles of 45 and 50 degrees respectively. However, these energy gains were insignificant compared to simply increasing the size of the PV module. This result was verified by physical experiments. The physical embodiment of the solar energy harvester with these characteristics, including the mount to the bridge and the panel, was conceptualized, refined, analyzed for structural integrity, and prototyped.