ScanTheSun is an interesting app that helps place and optimize solar collectors. These functions are pretty standard stuff, engineers have been doing the calculations by hand for decades. But the mobile app is actually a really nice fit to these tasks.
The app does several things. You tell it the location of the collector (either by map or by GPS), and it will know the path of the sun. A second function lets you use the camera and touch screen to scan the horizon, marking obstructions (e.g., buildings and trees). From this, the app can estimate the solar available, and optimal angle for a collector.
The app displays a “heat map” that shows how much solar is available. Using the accelerometer the phone mimics the position of the solar collector, and reads out the power from different angles. This can be used to optimize the alignment of a collector.
I’m sure the app does even more stuff I haven’t look at. It is supposed to feed into planning, to help place the collector. It also has features to simulate different times of the year, so the collector can be optimized for specific scenarios (e.g., max performance in winter).
ScanTheSun was developed by Ernest Grodner of the University of Warsaw. Nice work!