The telescope mount is an iOptron Mini-Tower. This mount is out of production but may be available on eBay or other used astronomy equipment sources. To be honest, the mount has some design problems that caused me headaches when trying to use if with a telescope for astronomical use. One issue is that azimuth and elevation clutches slip very easily requiring that the telescope be realigned if someone accidentally bumps it. The mount is capable of sidereal (star) tracking, lunar tracking, or solar tracking. On the left of the picture is the same type of mount being used with a Coronado solar telescope tracking the sun during last year's total eclipse. The clutch slippage is not as much of a problem with tracking the solar panels since alignment isn't super critical and you can just adjust the position by hand if necessary.
The mount has a built-in GPS receiver so it knows where it is on the earth, the date, and what time it is. To set up the tracking all you need to do is to put the mount into solar tracking mode, tell it to point at the sun, and then move the panels so they are pointed at the sun by slipping the azimuth and elevation clutches. The mount takes over from there. I don't use any kind of fancy sight to point the panels. I just look at the shadow of the panels to get them close enough.
The tripod is the standard one that comes with the iOptron Mini-Tower mount.
The solar panels are from Goal Zero. I picked them up at the Overland Expo along with a carrying bag at a blow out price since they were being discontinued. They have an aluminum frame to which I attached a standard telescope dovetail mount. This is simple aluminum wedge plate that is compatible with the iOptron mount. The panels are set up so they can be daisy-chained together to feed the charge controller.
I have two charge controllers that I use with this setup depending on what I'm using it for. One is a 12V Genasun GV-10 lead acid charge controller. The other is a Genasun lithium charge controller. The lead acid controller is used for charging lead acid batteries obviously. The lithium controller is used to charge the telescope mount I got to replace the Mini-Tower which is an iOptron AZ Mount Pro that has built-in lithium-ion batteries. I can also put the solar panels on that mount so it essentially charges itself during the day so it will run for about 10 hours at night (not that I'm ever able to stay up observing that long).
I can't say that using a telescope mount for tracking solar panels is cost effective. The Mini-Tower with the tripod was about $800 new. The AZ Mount Pro with tripod is $1300. Both are considered very reasonably priced for astronomical "GoTo" mounts. In this case, I'm dual purposing something I already had so I wasn't too worried about the sunk cost.
As far as using the mounts for their intended purpose, I've found that the AZ Mount Pro addresses the problems I've had with other iOptron mounts in the past and is what they should have been like when they first came out. The Mini-Tower works but can be frustrating because the clutch slipping issue and the fact that it's quite noisy in operation (for a telescope mount).
Last edited by NotAMog
on Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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