The Solar Tracker by Sunshine Innovations is the latest solar cooking accessory to hit the market. It is also advertised as the Sun Tracker.
One of the drawbacks to solar cooking is the need to continually tend the solar cooker to keep it turned towards the sun. This means that every hour, or sometimes every half hour, someone needs to manually readjust the cooker. This isn’t a problem if you are working nearby and can keep an eye on the cooker. But it can definitely be a problem if you are not. If the cooker is not refocused to the sun, the sun passes on by and the cooker will eventually become shaded and will cool down.
The solar cooking community has long been aware of the need for a self-tracking platform for solar ovens. Many Do-It-Yourself handymen and women have made their own platforms using small solar panels and motors. They have shared photos of their inventions, and sometimes even the directions and materials list, online for all to see – and envy! But until now, to the best of my knowledge, there has not been a manufactured model on the commercial market for those of us that are not so handy with screws and solar panels.
The Solar Tracker by Sunshine Innovations has changed that. The Solar Tracker is a motorized platform for solar cookers. The Solar Tracker follows the sun to keep the solar cooker focused so you don’t have too. It is now on the market and making a big buzz. So I purchased one.
Solar Tracker Pros and Cons
After using the Solar Tracker several times, here are some pros and cons about the Solar Tracker.
Measuring approximately 17.5 inches by 21.5 inches (44.45 cm by 54.61 cm), the platform is sized to fit the All-American Sun Oven. The base is made of high quality, heavy steel with a lip around the edge to keep the solar oven in place.
The long metal arm has a solar panel at one end. The solar panel generates the power that turns the wheels. At the top of the arm, near the solar panel, a small photocell senses the sun. The solar tracker moves to keep the photocell in the sun.
The arm is long enough to reach past large reflectors of the Sun Oven.
At the other end of the arm, an extremely strong clamp attaches the arm to the solar cooker.
That is all there is to it. It is a simple, but effective design.
But Does the Solar Tracker Work?
The big question everyone is asking is “Does the Solar Tracker work?” Yes! It works just as advertised.
While there is much to love about the Solar Tracker, there are also a few drawbacks.
There were no instructions included with the Solar Tracker. While it might seem self evident how the thing works, in fact it is a little bit baffling at first glance. For instance, where does the clamp go? Well, of course, it attaches to the rim of the Sun Oven.
The wheels are fine, but they only work on a smooth solid surface. They will not work in the grass, gravel, or sand. This is not a strike against the Solar Tracker, just pointing out a fact.
The solar panel out on the end of the arm is delicate and care should be taken to be sure it doesn’t get damaged. However, there is no bag to cover it with when it is not in use. I found a small padded bag of my own to place over the solar panel.
The advertising for this product says that it is “COMPATIBLE WITH MOST SUN OVENS”. Read this again carefully. When it says “SUN OVEN” – that is exactly what it means – the “All-American Sun Oven“. Do not confuse this with the generic term solar oven or solar cooker.
The platform is sized to fit the “All-American Sun Oven“. In fact, the “Sun Oven” fits perfectly. Smaller cookers will fit inside the base, but most other solar cookers will not fit. For example, the “Solavore Sport” is just about an inch too big. Placing the “Sport” on the Solar Tracker leaves one edge sitting up on the side of the platform edge and one side sitting down in the base. It is precarious and unlevel. Of course, you can sit the “Sport” cross ways across the top of the edges, but this leaves the “Sport” unsecure and prone to sliding.
The clamp is extremely strong. This is a good thing. But it is so strong and tight that I am not physically strong enough to open the clamp wide enough to attach it. Even my husband had to struggle to attach it. Younger hands will have no trouble, but this could be a problem for some people.
The clamp attaches to the rim of the “Sun Oven” and not to the platform. This is perfect if you have a “Sun Oven”. But there is no place on other cookers to place the clamp. Attaching it to the “Solavore Sport“, the plastic lid seemed to fragile and I was afraid it would crack. Attaching it to the “All Season Solar Cooker” (ASSC) or any other panel cooker would crimp the plastic. In addition, the arm is very heavy, so lighter weight solar cookers are not strong enough to hold up the arm.
Why not attach the arm to the platform itself? We tried. It didn’t work. First, because it so difficult to open the clamp, it was almost impossible to open it wide enough to attach to the platform over the lip. Secondly, due to the size of the clamp, it cannot be attached right side up or it hits the ground. If attached upside down, the arm and therefore the solar panel and photocell are also upside down and facing the wrong direction.
Now as I said above, it didn’t come with instructions so perhaps there is a way to do this that I just couldn’t figure out.
Bottom Line: If you own a Sun Oven or a similar size oven, you will absolutely love the Solar Tracker. But if you own any other kind of solar cooker, it simply will not work for you.
Join the discussion and tell us about your experience with the new Solar Tracker.
Note: I purchased the Solar Tracker. This review was not sponsored or supported by “Solar Tracker” in any way.