Tracking is a more advanced technology for mounting and orienting photovoltaic panels. A solar tracker is used to orient a solar PV panel towards the sun so the panels can get the maximum possible sunlight. Fixed systems in the past have faced a compromise in overall energy productivity because they are not designed to trace the sun and orient to an optimal angle. So they could not get sun’s energy at all times of the day.
Compensating for this lacuna, solar trackers are new systems that can move to “track” the progress of the sun across the entire sky, thereby gaining maximum sunlight and maximizing the energy output of the panel system.
Advantages of Solar Tracker
Trackers generate more electricity than their stationary counterparts and the increase can be as much as 10 to 25% depending on the geographic location of the tracking system.
There are two types of solar trackers, namely single-axis and dual-axis Choice of a tracking system depends on the size of PV plant, the local weather conditions, latitude of the place and the electrical requirements of the project.
Solar trackers are great land optimization tools as they can generate more electricity than their fixed tilt counterparts while consuming the same amount of land space.
In certain states, some utilities offer Time of Use (TOU) rate plans for solar power. Using a tracking system helps maximize the energy gains during these peak time periods by tracing sun in the sky and capturing its energy through out the day.
Advancements in technology and advanced electronics have drastically reduced maintenance concerns for tracking systems.
Disadvantages of Solar Tracker
Solar trackers are slightly more expensive than their stationary counterparts, as they are regarded as complex systems with moving parts.
Trackers require more maintenance than fixed systems. The type and quality of solar tracking system governs how much maintenance the system requires and how often.
All tracking systems need a great deal of site preparation. Additional trenching for wiring and grading is required too.
Financing tracking projects is seen as a more complex and high-risk venture from a financier’s viewpoint.
Solar trackers are not conducive with snowy weather and are only suited in hot climates. Contrast this with fixed systems that are more weather friendly than tracking systems.
Fixed tracking systems are field compatible systems that can accommodate up to 20% slopes in the E/W direction. While tracking systems typically bear less slope accommodation usually around 10% in the N/S direction.
In conclusion, solar trackers are efficient systems that can give a good return on investment but have to be chosen depending on one’s needs and budget. They can be a good fit given the proper climate, location and site conditions.