Optimized granularity analysis of maximum power point trackers in low power applications
Madren, Joseph S.
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Increasing energy consumption through the growing use of low-power electric devices in the U.S. military makes augmentation with solar energy an attractive solution due to its versatility, sustainability, and relatively low cost. In variable environmental conditions, solar panels generate unpredictable voltages and currents, however, which often results in power loss. Employing a maximum-power point tracker (MPPT) decouples the source and load, resulting in maximum power generation and transfer. Using Simulink, we modeled three solar array configurations and tested for the Puma AE II Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) to determine optimum MPPT granularity. Distributing three MPPTs on the main wing and another on the horizontal stabilizer permitted solar panel coverage on all of the available surface area. The MPPT model tracked within 99% of theoretical power generation and transferred approximately 95% of generated power to the battery during peak environmental conditions. This configuration provided the maximum power augmentation to the SUAS battery and can extend the endurance of the Puma SUAS significantly dependent on environmental conditions, electrical load requirements, and other factors. Another conclusion is that more power can be generated with higher-efficiency cells, but the 15% Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) cells modeled proved to be an economical approach to augmenting electrical demands on SUAS.
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