slew drive

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