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Rooftop vs. Ground Mount Residential Solar Comparison

Rooftop vs. Ground Mount Residential Solar Comparison

                In this article we will be discussing the main differences and possibilities of rooftop and ground mounted solar in residential installations.  There are a number of variables that are in play in either scenario, and being educated on differences and possible issues you can make a better decision when you choose to make the move to solar.  Both installation types have ideal applications but we are going to show you why more and more people are choosing ground mounted solutions for their property.

 

The most widely recognized version of Solar Energy Production

 

Almost everyone has a friend or neighbor that has shown interest in, and has installed some type of solar array on their roof.  They are undoubtedly proud of what they have added to their home and often gloat about energy savings and helping the environment.  They are indeed doing that, and in the past 20 years, they would have made a great decision, but is it the right decision today?  After almost 2 decades of system decay and advancement in technology, what was once the most widely viewed and recognized application of solar is now becoming obsolete in many cases.

 

Keep It Simple Solar

 

The basic idea behind rooftop solar installations is rather straight forward.  Use a roof that is adjacent to the sun, drill holes in it to install racking, and install panels to racking.  This often requires that the roof is facing east/west so that it will be facing the sun’s path over the course of the day.  Any deviation from the perfect east/west orientation will lead to loss of potential energy production in the installation.  Often times as well, there may be some shading in the way of trees, which would also deplete the energy production opportunity of the array.  This means that the same trees that the homeowner relies on to keep the home cooler are hindering the solar potential of the property.

 

Key Issues with Rooftop Solar

 

                Environmental issues such as the ones described above are often times out of the control of the homeowner or are not thought of when purchasing the home.  There are however, a number of key issues with rooftop solar that are at the complete control of the homeowner.  These issues are sometimes immediate, while others are experienced years down the road.

 

Unfit or Unsuitable Roof

 

When many homes were built over the years, they were never built with the intention of putting thousands of pounds of racking and solar panels on it.  Also, coding and building regulations have become increasingly specific and strict over passing years, so it is quite possible that many older roofs are just simply not equipped to handle the load.  Miscalculation of the load levels of any roof could cause it to easily cave in.

 

Drilling Holes into the Roofing

 

There are obvious potential risks with drilling holes anywhere in your roof at any point.  If a roofer where to have to drill into the roofing, they would do it towards the end of a corner where risk of damage was minimal.  When rooftop solar is installed there are spaced holes drilled over the entire roof, weakening the substructure and creating unnecessary risk of leaking in the future.  If a leak develops it could be weeks, months or years before the owner discovers it to get it fixed.  Furthermore, it creates the risk of mold, electrical issues and a host of other risks that would cost a lot more money down the road.

 

Waterflow

 

As we all can understand, roofs are built with the intention of shedding water in specific directions but furthermore away from the home.  Rooftop solar racking hinders the flow of water in many cases and can cause it to collect in areas that were not intended at the time of the design of the roof.  This can cause a number of weaknesses in the structure and if paired with a drilled hole leaking could be catastrophic.

 

Reroofing

 

The average lifespan of a residential house roof is 20-30 years, after which the roofing material needs to be totally replaced.  This includes the weather matting as well as the roofing material.  If there is a solar array on top of the roofing material, then it will obviously need to be dismantled completely before the roofing replacement can even begin.  Also, roofers cannot dismantle solar systems because the are not NABCEP certified contactors, so you will have to call a solar company to come take it down, and replace it again after the roof has been replace.

 

 

New Technology Leads to New Solutions

In the past years, solar technology has exponentially increased and with the development of solar trackers, production increases have reached up to 40%.  Solar Trackers were originally designed for extreme latitudes (furthest from the equator) and were primarily used in the Utility and Commercial/Industrial markets.  In even more recent years, these technologies have been adapted for use in the residential market proving that ground mounted solar trackers could be a viable solution for homeowners.

 

Efficient Solutions for Possible Issues

 

                The use of ground mounted trackers, particularly Dual Axis Solar Trackers have solved a number of existing issues with solar adoption and how they compare with rooftop solar installation.  There are a host of issues that can commonly be alleviated by using a Sun Action Trackers’ DualTrack Dual Axis Solar Tracker.

No Roofing Issues

 

Since the DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Solar Tracker is ground mounted, you alleviate a number of the roofing issues such as potential leaking, weight issues, waterflow and reroofing issues.  The system is also easier to maintain since it is easier to access.

 

Limited Land Issues

 

The DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Solar Tracker boasts a number of benefits that allow for more flexible installation for your solar array.  One major benefit is the bolt cage (mounting system) is only 16” which is encased in a 36” Diameter concrete footer.  This means that you will only have to use about 16 sq ft of your property to mount up to 42- 72 cell solar panels.  The structure also provides shade and with a 12 foot down-post, you can be assured that anything that is and would be beneath it will not be disturbed.  The DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Tracker can also be installed within flood planes and swampy land to further add to its land usage flexibility.

 

Production Increase Increases Opportunity

 

Each DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Tracker is equipped with Sun Action Trackers’ patented Real Time Sensing devices to add 4-6% production compared to astronomical tracking systems, as well as up to 40% more energy collected due to the Dual Axis nature of its design compared to rooftop systems.  With the addition of bi-facial solar panels, you can even increase energy production by up to 60% compared to rooftop mounted solar installations.  Another impressive about the DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Solar Tracker is that it reaches peak production as soon as it finds the sun, and maintains that peak production until the sun goes down.  This means that you will be at peak performance before, during and after peak hours making the absolute most of TIME OF USE rates.  These production increases add significant value to the system overall and will return ROI faster for the homeowner ultimately.

 

 

A Complete Turnkey System

 

Each DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Tracker is a Turnkey System that is ready to be installed.   Every Tracker includes the Tracker Racking, Critical Components, Bolt Cage, Real Time Sensors and Control Box ready to be installed.  Each system can be installed with a telescopic forklift and a crew of 3-5 people.  Sun Action Trackers offers PE Stamps in all 50 states and can ship worldwide.

 

To Learn More about the DualTrack Dual Axis Residential Solar Tracker, please visit us at www.sat-energy.com or call us at 210-302-2141.

 

Posted by Sun Action Trackers in Actuator, Community, control box, Dual Axis Tracker, Products, real time sensor, Residential Solar Trackers, solar tracking, 0 comments
Sun Action Trackers Helps Power Virginia Hospital

Sun Action Trackers Helps Power Virginia Hospital

The Carilion Hospital System recently finished installation and commissioning of a 1.28 MW Single Axis Tracker system to help supplement power needs and to provide provisional power backup for the entire hospital during power outages.  Estimated to produce up to 20% of the hospitals power needs annually, the Sun Action Trackers nanogrid will also offer the hospital cost savings that they intend to pass along to its patients.

“As expensive as health care is, anything that we can do to keep our costs down can be passed along to our patients ultimately,” Bill Flattery, CEO of Carilion New River Valley Medical Center and vice president of Carilion’s western region operations, said.

To view news coverage of the commissioning, please see below:


Posted by Sun Action Trackers in Actuator, Community, Press Coverage, Products, real time sensor, single axis solar tracker, solar system benefits, solar tracking, 0 comments

Summer Heat Records Reach Pricing Maximum in Texas

The oppressive heat of a summer in Texas is hard to deny, but in that oppression lies great opportunity for solar production.  As the heat begins to rise, wind begins to slow making solar much more important to renewable initiatives across the state.

In the past two weeks, ERCOT has reported record breaking energy demands state wide matching the record breaking temperatures.  In the past week, they have set a new record peak energy demand of 5080 MW and with higher temperatures expected, that record could be easily broken as well.

This increased demand has driven prices up for solar energy to the maximum legal price statewide of $9.00/kWH (disregarding contractual Power Purchase Agreements) during midday peak pricing hours.

The rise in demand and pricing makes Texas a prime location for your solar project.  It is currently the 7th overall state of solar power installed, while it is the 4th largest market in 2017.  Texas also touts a heavily upgraded transmission system throughout the state.

Sun Action Trackers is proud to have installed over 400mW of Dual Axis Trackers which adds up to over 30,000 trackers statewide.  As demands peak, our Dual Axis Trackers are increasing production up to 40% through our patented Real Time Sensing, adding additional value to each of our projects in Texas.

If you would like to learn more about our Dual Axis Solar Trackers or our projects in Texas, please CONTACT US for more information.

Posted by Sun Action Trackers in Actuator, Community, components, Dual Axis Tracker, home news, Press Coverage, Products, real time sensor, 0 comments
Residential Solar Trackers by Sun Action Trackers

Residential Solar Trackers by Sun Action Trackers

Welcome to the DualTrack lineup of Dual Axis Solar Trackers

  Sun Action Trackers is proud to announce the DualTrack 16 and the DualTrack 24 Dual Axis Solar Trackers now available for residential use.  These residential solar trackers have been specifically engineered to meet the needs of homeowners all over the world and are ready to be shipped now!  Each DualTrack installation will still highlight our Real Time Sensing and MAC Steel and will generate up to 40% more power per day compared to rooftop systems.

The Most Versatile Options Available

Our DualTrack products have been built in 16, 20, and 24 panel arrays but can also be modified to fit any reasonable sized array up to 42 panels.  Our dual axis solar trackers have also been designed to accept EITHER 72 OR 60 CELL SOLAR PANELS.  This added flexibility insures that the DualTrack lineup can meet the needs of nearly any homesite.

Easy Installation and Setup

  The DualTrack product line was designed to optimize efficiency and ease of use to installers and owners alike.  Since the DualTrack products highlight Real Time Sensing, there is no calibration needed upon completion.  Once the system is turned on, it tracks to the sun immediately and continues for the lifetime of the solar tracker.  Each system includes racking, down post, control box, slew drive, actuator, and bolt cage for ground mounting.  Systems can be assembled in a day (once bolt cage is set), and can be installed with the use of a backhoe.

Learn More About the Most Versatile Solar Tracker Around

Our team would love to speak with you regarding how the DualTrack Dual Axis Solar Trackers can change the way you are thinking about residential solar installations.  Please feel free to CONTACT US for more information today!

Posted by Sun Action Trackers in Actuator, Community, components, control box, Dual Axis Tracker, Press Coverage, Products, real time sensor, Residential Solar Trackers, slew drive, solar system benefits, solar tracking, 0 comments
Carefree Operations and Maintenance – Part 2 – Less Is More

Carefree Operations and Maintenance – Part 2 – Less Is More

Carefree Operations and Maintenance - Part 2 - Less is More

By Sun Action Trackers

In Part 1 of our Carefree Operations and Maintenance series, we discussed Land O&M and various solutions to lower costs and minimize financial risk, while maintaining an “eco-friendly” approach.  In Part 2 of our series, we will be discussing the complexity of system designs and how they affect your overall O&M costs over time.  There are a wide variety of issues to take into account when evaluating O&M costs during the lifecycle of your project.  These issues could include such variables as system design, environmental variables and materials used in the project.  In this article we will be focusing on System Design.

Keep it Simple Solar (KISS)

In previous articles, we have mentioned this approach which we have found to be most effective when tackling O&M costs over time.  By focusing on hyper-simple design, O&M costs of systems designed by major manufacturers are getting lower and lower as systems become more refined and efficient.  Though approaches vary widely, there are a number of innovative designs and options for your project.  Sun Action Trackers’ PST-1AX6 Single Axis Solar Tracking solution highlights a number of innovative additions to lower O&M costs initially and for the lifecycle of the project.

Linked vs. Independent Row Designs

Linked Row Solar Arrays or “centralized tracker designs” move multiple rows of solar trackers with a single motor or actuator, whereas Independent Row or “decentralized tracker designs” require 1 motor or actuator per row.  Though the decentralized tracker designs offer some flexibility for land usage, the centralized tracker systems are much more efficient with 25% of the moving parts than its counterpart.  Less moving parts lowers the potential for system failures, while also requiring less time to maintain the system overall.  In many cases, linked row systems will also require “leveling” of each row to allow the systems to work.  The Sun Action Trackers’ PST-1AX6 single axis solar tracker however does not require grading or leveling to make our system work properly.

Figure A

Replaceable Parts

Linked row and independent row systems also differ greatly in the number of motors that are needed to make the entire system.  Figure A highlights an 800Mw project using 8 actuators to run the entire system vs. 28 motors on the independent system as each row requires its own powered motor.   Each row also requires its own control box and sensor opposed to the linked row system that uses 1 control box and sensor for every 6 rows. This means a significant increase of energy usage to use the tracker system, and more moving parts to replace and fix moving down the road.  As another question, Which do you think would require more operations and maintenance attention?  1 actuator and 1 sensor, or 6 motors and 6 sensors?

Figure B

Ground Mounting

Even before tracker construction can begin, the pilings must be poured and secured before steel construction can begin.  Figure B illustrates linked row systems vs. independent row systems.  As you can see, the linked row system only requires 48 pilings per 100 Kw compared to 56 for the independent row system.  This makes a difference in future foundation maintenance and installation time.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to single axis solar tracking: Simple is King.  By limiting replaceable parts that could potentially fail during design and engineering, you will ultimately lower your Operations and Maintenance costs across the board.  Minimizing points of failure is going to lead to a system that consumes less energy thus maximizing total production of the system.  If you want to make your project more efficient, KEEP IT SIMPLE SOLAR.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Actuator, component, components, control box, Products, real time sensor, single axis solar tracker, solar tracking, 0 comments
O&M Comparison on Fixed Tilt vs. Single Axis

O&M Comparison on Fixed Tilt vs. Single Axis

O&M Comparison on Fixed Tilt vs. Single Axis

By Sun Action Trackers

In this short overview, we will be discussing the Operations and Maintenance cost difference between Single Axis Solar Trackers, and Fixed Tilt Solar Array Solutions.  First and foremost, there is not a defined answer to many of the questions surrounding the upkeep time and costs since each system is different, just as each project site is different and so on.  Rather than take a generalized position on these topics, Sun Action Trackers understands that each and every single axis tracker solution that is installed is absolutely unique in and of itself.  In many situations, single axis solar trackers will be the solution that will best fit the project, while dual axis solar trackers may be of better use in other scenarios.  Let’s take a look at some of the hard-pressing questions that surround this area of conversation.

We were recently working with a Developer that asked if the increased O&M costs on a single axis solar tracker were offset by the performance of the array.  In this particular deployment, the answer was yes, making the additional cost justified.  There are a number of factors that are in play in any development project that need to be noted as well.  Some of these factors are:

  • Geography and Topography – Site design
  • Location – level of irradiant light, snow, etc.
  • PPA – How much are they receiving per KWh, MWh, etc.
  • Time Sensitive Matters – Current price of Steel, Copper, and other commodities

In this Developer’s case, it made sound financial sense to opt for the single axis solar tracker system rather than fixed tilt due to the increase in productivity vs. cost to operate and maintain the system.  This then raised another major question being discussed industry wide at this point.  Centralized or Decentralized Movement Systems?  This refers to whether or not each row is joined by linkage or whether each row moves independently of one another.

There are two major sides to this part of the conversation, which are both significant.  Sun Action Trackers offers a linked row system in our PST-1AX6 single axis solar trackers.  This eliminates a large percentage of moving and electro-mechanical parts in comparison to “decentralized” system designs.  By lowering the moving parts, it creates a more stable and efficient system.  This is achieved by linking 6 rows to a single link rod that pushes all 6 rows in unison.  That means 1 actuator motor can run 324 solar panels to track the sun simultaneously.  In comparison, decentralized systems use multiple sets of sensors, separate control boxes and multiple motors which create exponential opportunity for failure.  These “decentralized” systems could also take as many as 4 times the slew or actuators drive motors, sensors and control boxes, to achieve the same output as its centralized counterpart.  As you can imagine, the centralized single axis solar tracker solution offers greater dependability due to less electro-mechanical parts, leading to less potential for breakdown.  With less electro-mechanical parts and motors, centralized single axis trackers will also be easier to find pieces and parts for moving forward since they are built out of mostly existing parts, as compared to some decentralized solutions that offer complex circuitry multiplied by the number of rows installed.   Over time, this will also drive the O&M costs down as the solar industry continues to grow in adoption rates, and investors are more comfortable with this cutting-edge technology.  Innovation will also play a major role as single axis solar tracker systems become even more efficient and streamlined.

With all of that being said, we believe in the application of the KISS METHOD when it comes to single axis solar trackers.  KEEP IT SIMPLE SOLAR.  Less means more.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Actuator, component, Dual Axis Tracker, Products, real time sensor, Residential Solar Trackers, slew drive, solar system benefits, solar tracking, 0 comments
Simplicity in Solar: Tracking Options Made Easy

Simplicity in Solar: Tracking Options Made Easy

Simplicity in Solar: Tracking Options Made Easy

By Sun Action Trackers

Fixed Tilt Solar Solutions

Fixed tilt, or Non-tracking systems have long since been around and have until recently been the standard installation choice for developers and EPCs alike.  Many adopted this choice due to the cost difference in tracking solutions vs. fixed tilt solutions and the profitability of the installation consequently.  Fixed tilt systems offer some installation advantages, as they can be used in more difficult/ challenging  terrain. Historically, fixed tilt systems are also more adaptable to harsher environments due to lack of moving parts.

Solar Tracking Solutions

Tracking solutions for solar energy collection started to be introduced since the inception of solar, but much like other areas of alternative energy production, the technology was highly expensive and sometimes unreliable.  In comparison to the fixed axis solutions, tracking will produce up to 20%-45% more energy than its non-tracked counterparts, while now finally making sense financially due to cost reductions and rising adoption rates of the technology. Tracked solutions also offer a reduction in D/C capacity which allows for a reduction in BOS, Modules, and additional racking, getting better performance than their fixed counterparts.  In a late 2016 report, GTM Research estimates that tracking solutions will grow from roughly 20% this year to nearly 50% by 2021.  Tracking solutions continue to evolve as well into two sub categories:

Single Axis Tracking

As the name implies, this is a tracking solution with a single hinged axis to track the sun East to West.  This option requires a North-South alignment to maximize the sun’s energy throughout the day.  Compared to a fixed tilt system, there have been various increases shown ranging from 17-23% depending on the latitude and irradiance of the system.

Dual Axis Tracking

Though Dual Axis tracking has been around essentially as long as its Single Axis relative, it has been often overlooked as the most valuable of options when dealing with utility grade projects.  The Alamo Projects in Texas are a great example of this, as there are over 40,000 Dual Axis Trackers in operation today.  This large-scale adoption has led to expansive growth in this market as well, with suited applications in more diverse weather conditions.

In Closing

Fixed tilt and Tracking solutions will both have a place in solar energy generation in the future.  As the technology advances and performance increases, tracking solutions will become the standard for solar energy generation due to higher efficiency and a justifiable cost increase.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our second installment of Simplicity in Solar.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to CONTACT US today for more information on our Solar Energy Tracking Solutions.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting, 0 comments
A Personal View : Simplicity in Solar

A Personal View : Simplicity in Solar

A Personal View: Simplicity in Solar

By Daniel Wilson, Senior Electrical Engineer at Sun Action Trackers

When I was younger and pondering the idea of going to school for engineering, I asked a very successful engineer what I should expect to learn from studying engineering at university. I expected something along the line of “you will be able to fix cars after you graduate” or “you will be better at math”. Instead he told me that I would see the world through a new set of eyes. It wasn’t until I graduated university that I understood what he meant. With fresh new eyes, I now saw the world through the laws of physics, cause/effect and that the most robust solutions are usually the simplest. A simple solution is by no means inferior, rather it simply accomplishes the same task as a complex solution, but in a more efficient way.

At Sun Action Trackers, we know that simplicity in PV tracker design is essential, as these systems will be operating continuously, outdoors for 25+ years. Our Single and Dual Axis trackers all utilize our patented Real-Time Sensor technology that searches the sky for the maximum point of irradiance. Why blindly follow the sun with a program that doesn’t even consider the fact that clouds are between the tracker and the sun, when you could just simply rotate where the energy is actually at? Real-Time sensing is simpler, gives you higher generation, and doesn’t ever need to be calibrated. Trackers have to move, so some type of bearing is integral to the system. Once again, in the spirit of making things simple through ingenuity, we have designed flexible bearings that can account for post misalignment and require zero O&M greasing for the entire life of the project.

All of our trackers utilize low voltage DC motors that are readily available. I have worked for a tracking company that uses hydraulic actuation instead, and I don’t miss having to search for pin-hole leaks on 100ft. long cables, praying that the leak isn’t occurring underground if I can’t find it the first pass. I also don’t miss maintaining pumps, changing the oil, replacing clogged pistons, lines that were never bled properly, or wildlife that somehow makes its way through the an 8ft. fence just to chew on the hydraulic lines. Our Single Axis tracker houses 4x more modules than the leading competitor. This means 4x less control boxes, sensors and motors that need to be maintained over the course of 25+ years. Additionally, our UL3703 certified Single Axis tracker can electrically bond over 320 modules within its structure so that you have 4x less grounding electrodes to worry about installing than with the leading 80-module tracker.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Actuator, component, components, Products, real time sensor, slew drive, solar system benefits, solar tracking, staff team, 0 comments