Solar tracking equipment

bob_brownJanuary 23, 2007

For those who have electrical solar panels, Is tracking necessary for daily operations? If so, how effective is your unit? How reliable is the unit, and what about repairs?

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When I had a system installed I considered tracking devices. There are two basic types I am aware of . . . one uses a refrigerant in tanks; and one is electrical / mechanical. The refrigerant type works on phase change due to heating and shifts the fluid between two tanks; tiltling the panels. The other type uses light sensors / motor(s) and mechanical gears. I've read that tracking can pick up ~ 10 - 40% more; depending upon numerous factors . . I would tend to disbelieve the higher percent unless it's some pretty bizarre location / conditions. Anyway; I ended up not doing tracking for a couple reasons. Didn't want to do the refrigerant type for environmental reasons. Didn't do the mechanical / electrical type as I was told by the installer ( well-known, long standing, and respected ) that ANY type of tracking will require at least some maintenance and eventually some repair. Never know when some crazed squirrel would choose to build a nest in the gears . . . probably on the coldest / windiest day of the year. I was also told that they had a tendency to not fare well in high winds. Having two, 100 sq ft arrays made me gun shy of doing it. Also, in my case; there were incentives through the state ( New York ) which were based upon PV wattage installed. If I had installed less wattage AND trackers and ended up with the same collected energy; I would have gotten a smaller incentive. Since the incentive was $4 / watt installed capacity; it was a meaningful amount.

I don't have any "real" info on actual reliability though; of any type of tracking system in any installation. Just sharing some thoughts / facts . . . I've had a nominal 2800 watt PV array in place for 2 years now; and collect about 2700 kWh / year here in central New York state . . . not the sun capital of the world for sure . . . .

I haven't been to Home Power's website / mag for quite some time; but I would guess there's some more "real" info there . .


    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 7:36PM
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I think Bob pretty well covered it -- just a couple added thoughts:

You should be able to get a pretty accurate idea how much tracking will buy you by running PVWatts with and without 1 axis tracking. For my location in MT PVWatts predicts a 30% increase for a tracked array.
One thing to bear in mind is that it gives much more benefit in the summer than the winter.

On the refrigerant driven ones, I know that Zomeworks (who makes this type) had to change the refrigerant they use to one that is better from an ozone depletion standpoint -- not sure how much better. There was an article not long ago in Home Power that compared trackers --


Here is a link that might be useful: PVWatts

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 9:33PM
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