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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
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