TRACKING THE SUN

Solar power in India is a fast developing industry with the country getting around 300 days of solar radiation a year. However, one major problem with the use of solar energy is that its availability varies widely with time. Due to the sun’s day-night cycle and the Earth’s orbit around the sun, solar power generation can at times be limited. This is where solar trackers are gaining ground in the industry.

Solar developers are becoming increasingly aware of the enhanced Capacity Utilization Factors (CUF) that tracker implementation could bring about. This technological discovery allows more energy to be produced since the trackers allow solar arrays to catch up to the sun every minute of every hour during daylight.

Stationary solar panel mounts which hold the panels in a fixed position can have their productivity compromised when the sun passes overhead at a less-than-optimal angle. To compensate for this, solar trackers can automatically move the mounting of the photovoltaic panels to track the progress of the sun across the sky, thereby maximizing output. Estimates suggest that output will increase by 15-25% by utilizing a single-axis tracking system instead of a stationary array.

“Compared to a fixed mounted PV system, the use of tracker technology can give an incremental power output of 15-25 per cent, depending upon the location being installed. It is the nature of the system to track the sun at every point of time (based on the algorithm) from dawn to dusk, hence helping in generating maximum generation from the same solar panel used for fixed ground mounts.”

Vinay Goyal
Chief Executive Officer, Ganges International (P) Ltd

Currently, there are single-axis and double-axis (dual-axis) solar trackers. Single-axis trackers track the sun from east to west on a single pivot point, whereas double-axis trackers trail east to west and tilt from north to south tracking.

At present, solar tracker companies like NEXTracker, AllEarth Renewables, L&T, Ganges International, and Vikram Solar have made some amazing technological developments.

Vikram Solar’s HELITRAC is an advanced solar tracker equipped with an IP65 robust weatherproof mechanism and multi-mode intelligent operations. The tracker is capable of changing its orientation throughout the day to follow the sun’s path to maximize PV efficiencies. Highlighting its importance, the President of Engineering of the company said,

“In large scale MW projects, utilization of sun tracking systems is becoming increasingly prevalent as it enables developers to make maximum utilization of available land by generating more electricity even from a shredded down DC capacity.”

Siddhartha Sengupta,
Vikram Solar

NEXTracker which has recently achieved 1 GW of solar tracker in India has incorporated control systems into their trackers which monitor the angle of each row of solar panels in real-time and report back on tracking accuracy to keep panels facing directly into the sun all the time.

AllEarth Renewables’ Dual-axis Solar Tracker seems like an amazing new development in the solar segment. AllEarth’s tracker uses GPS and wireless technology to track the sun’s arc in the sky throughout the day. The result? Soaking up 45% more energy than traditional rooftop solar. Over 4,000 trackers have already been installed, and AllEarth is poised to take the rest of the solar market by storm. The trackers are designed for residential, commercial and industrial operations, along with small and large utility-scale installations.

The solar tracker market in the country is still evolving with an installed capacity of under 2 GW, but a steep fall in the tariff, localization of technology, and government policies are major factors behind the drive towards tracker technology. Two third of the current installed capacity has come up in the past three years with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 65%. However, land constraints, weather and latitude, and electric rates are some of the limitations that developers who opt for trackers have to overcome, but maintenance costs are beginning to fall as technology improves.

This will lead to significant growth in the use of tracking systems and with the rise of PV installations across the world, the future of solar trackers looks quite hopeful. Installations of solar trackers are predicted to reach 3-4 GW by the end of 2020 and the global solar tracker market is expected to reach $6.83 billion by 2022.


Summarized from Saur Energy and Tata Power Solar

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