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.