solar tracking

What Is A Solar Tracker?

Solar trackers enable you to track your solar panel’s path of the sun through the sky, as a sunflower. As such, they are able to generate more solar energy. However, solar trackers are expensive to purchase. Does the additional solar power output worth the added cost of a solar tracker? In the majority of situations, it makes more sense to put up additional solar panels.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you should be aware of about solar trackers, from the types available to whether they’re worth investing in.

Solar Tracker

Solar trackers are an instrument that tracks the sun as it travels through the skies. In the event that solar trackers get connected by solar panels, they will follow the course of the sun and generate more renewable energy to utilize. Solar trackers are typically paired with ground-mounted solar systems, however, recently, rooftop-mounted trackers are now available on the market.

Usually, solar tracking devices will be attached to the racking of solar panels. The solar panels are able to follow the movements of the sun. The method by which the solar tracking system motion depends on the type of system it’s.

There are three kinds of solar tracking systems

Manual solar trackers

solar tracking

Manual trackers require that you physically move the panels at different intervals during the day in order to track the sun. It’s not always feasible because you’ll need an individual to continuously monitor the sun’s position and direction that the solar panels are in.

Passive solar trackers

solar tracking

Passive trackers have a liquid that has low boiling points that will evaporate when exposed to sunlight. After the liquid has evaporated, the tilt system is distorted. This results in the panels tilting in the direction of the sun’s radiations.

Passive solar trackers – Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Rely on the heat for operation and not on energy
  • Not as expensive as active trackers
Cons
  • More inaccurate than active trackers.
  • Not as efficient as activity trackers.
  • Avoid working at low temperatures.

Active solar trackers

solar tracking

Active trackers depend on hydraulic cylinders or motors to shift their position. Motors in active trackers can shift the PV panels to ensure they face the sun. Although this is more efficient as compared to manual trackers elements within the motors can easily fail. This could result in increased maintenance costs over the life of the device.

Then, solar trackers may be classified more, based on the direction they are moving in. A solar tracker may be one of the following:

  • Single Axis Solar Tracker
  • Dual Axis solar tracker

Single Axis solar tracker

Single-axis trackers are able to follow the sun’s location in its journey across the east-west axis. They are typically utilized in utility-scale construction projects. A single-axis tracker could boost production by 25% and 35 percent.

solar tracking
Single Axis solar tracker – Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Typically costs less
  • More reliable
  • Longer lifespan
Cons
  • Not as energy-efficient
  • Not as advanced

Dual solar tracker with the axis

The tracker does not just follow the sun’s movement from east-west and follows the sun as it moves between north and south. Two-axis trackers are more frequent in small and residential commercial solar projects with small spaces, meaning they are able to produce enough power to supply their energy needs.

Dual-axis trackers could boost energy production by 40%

solar tracking
Dual-axis trackers – Pros & Cons
Pros
  • More energy efficient
  • More accurate
Cons
  • Not as reliable
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Typically more expensive

What is the price of the cost of a solar tracker?

Solar trackers can dramatically add to the price of a solar photovoltaic system. A typical 4 Kilowatt solar panel that is mounted to the ground costs approximately $13,000. Tracking equipment costs anywhere between $500 and more than 1,000 per unit.

If you added one axis tracking system in that same grid, this could raise the price to around $20,000. It’s a premium of 57% more than the price for the array fixed. only three percent more sun energy output.

A dual-axis tracking device could cost more, amounting to about $26,000. That’s more than twice the cost of the whole fixed-ground mount system!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a solar tracker?

solar tracking

As with other things solar trackers come with benefits as well as disadvantages.

Pros of solar trackers

The main advantage of the solar tracking system is the boost in electricity production. In general, a solar panel equipped with a single-axis tracker will yield an improvement of 25 to 35 percent. The dual-axis tracker can boost performance by 5-10 percent.

If you reside in an area of high latitudes where the sun’s location in the sky is extremely variable during winter and summer, a dual-axis tracker could be an effective option to maximize the solar power you generate and provide enough power to your home or your property. The ideal position and angle of solar panels are dependent on the location you’re in the world. Learn more about your place of residence and the ideal angle for solar panels here.

Cons of solar trackers

Tracking systems typically have higher maintenance and installation expenses. Solar trackers will be more expensive in the beginning than fixed solar panel systems due to the fact that it is more complicated and includes moving components. This leads to the second aspect of higher costs in solar tracking system maintenance. More complicated systems require more maintenance, which adds costs over the course of time. For homes typically, it’s not worth the cost. However, for commercial installations for businesses, like those with little roof space, but greater power output, the improved efficiency of the use of a solar tracker could be worth the cost.

Another issue with solar trackers is that they’re usually too heavy to be utilized in rooftop solar installations. If you are looking to install an array of solar panels that tracks features ensure that you have an array that is mounted on the ground.

Pros
  • Systems that track offer higher amounts of energy output when compared to those with solar panels fixed since they can track the sun’s movement.
  • The range of trackers offered by companies such as Allearth Solar and First Sunergy allows you to locate a tracker that is perfect for your requirements.
  • Solar trackers are extremely beneficial in areas that have time-of-use electricity prices. More energy will be generated during peak times and you don’t need to pay for grid electricity at times when it’s the most expensive.
Cons
  • Solar trackers can be very costly and can easily double the cost.
  • Solar trackers consist of moving components, which means they are more prone to fail. This results in more expensive maintenance expenses.
  • If you decide to install trackers, it may require additional preparation and planning, such as digging trenches for wiring and additional grading of the site.

Do solar trackers warrant the extra cost?

solar tracking

Most of the time solar trackers aren’t worth the extra expense even though they generate more power. Since solar panel is less expensive than they have ever been and are more affordable than ever, it will cost less to put in many solar panels, than to add a tracking system.

As an example, suppose you put in 15 ground-mounted solar panels that have 300 watts. The total cost for such a system could be $16,625.

Now, suppose you’d like to have one axis of solar tracker integrated into this system. This would cost you an additional $500 for each solar module. This would be $7,500 for just the equipment for tracking. The installation of double-axis tracking equipment could cost you another $15,000!

It’s true that systems that incorporate tracking equipment will generate more electricity than fixed systems. But are the savings really worth the cost of tracking equipment?

The table below outlines the cost of a fixed system or a single-axis tracking system, as well as an axis-based dual-axis tracking system, which could save you money on your energy bill:

Solar system type

System cost

Annual energy savings

Estimated payback period

Fixed ground-mounted system

$14,625

$1,100

13 years

Ground-mounted system with single axis tracker

$22,125

$1,430

15.5 years

Ground-mounted system with double axis tracker

$29,625

$1,540

19 years

It is possible to spend an additional $15,000 on a tracking device for a tracking system and receive an additional $440 in savings per year. The payback period for this system would increase to more than 20 years!

You could instead add 6 solar panels to generate exactly the amount of energy that a dual-axis system can. The greatest part is that you’ll need to shell out an additional $5,850 to increase the number of solar panels that are part of your energy system.

To track or not to track?

solar tracking

In most cases particularly with regard to residential solar installations solar trackers aren’t worth the extra expense. This is the reason solar trackers aren’t used as frequently in the residential solar market.

The only time solar trackers are beneficial is when there is little space for installation. If you don’t have enough space to install additional solar panels installation, the solar tracking system will permit you to produce more power within a smaller space. Solar trackers can also be useful for large-scale commercial or utility installations.

It is important to speak with a nearby solar contractor to determine what a solar tracking system will cost you. You are able to utilize our calculator for solar to determine the cost of solar in your region and also how much switching to solar will reduce your electric cost.

Are solar tracking systems the right choice for you?

solar tracking

Rooftop installation is less costly expenses and doesn’t need any space for a yard so it’s the best option for homeowners who are interested in solar. In the end, many solar panels for homes don’t come with solar trackers and are most likely not worth the expense. If you’ve got a south-facing roof, then the solar panels you have installed will be designed to maximize sunlight, which eliminates the requirement for a tracker. To make the most of your solar panel, consider buying one of the best solar panels in the present.

Solar trackers provide the most opportunity to save money in high-latitude locations because of the annual movement that the sun makes. This is why solar users who reside in Alaska as well as some parts of the northern part of the continental U.S. may want to think about integrating trackers into their systems. For the vast most US residents solar panel owners, the sun’s motion won’t affect your panel’s production to the extent that the use of a tracker system can provide significant financial advantages.

For the majority of people, it is better to install an array for rooftop use that faces south or a ground-mounted system that faces towards the south.

The solar tracking system is frequently used in commercial projects, generally with a capacity of more than 1 megawatt (MW). For commercial-scale solar arrays, the long-term benefits of increasing output over the course of time will be more than enough for the first investment and ongoing maintenance expenses worthwhile. Furthermore, commercial-scale solar arrays tend to be ground-mounted which makes solar trackers an option.

When do solar panels function the best?

Solar panel efficiency is impacted by:

  • Radiation– the amount of Watts falling onto an object at any point in time
  • Insolation is the force that falls on a flat surface over time (determines the energy that is produced in kWh)
  • Temperature solar panels perform best at 77 ° F (26 degrees Celsius)
  • Orientation direction pointing due South for the Northern hemisphere and due North for the Southern
  • Tilt angle Latitude of the location is +15 degrees in Winter and -15 degrees in Summer
Optimum Solar Panel Angle – Best Angle For Solar Panels

Chart illustrating the effect of tilt angle on the output of solar panels in the USA:

Tilt angle in degrees

Percentage increase in production – Southern USA

Percentage increase in production – Northern USA

Flat

Assume 100 comparison only

10

108 – 8% increase

109 – 9% increase

20

113 – 13% increase

115 – 15% increase

30

115 – 14% increase

118 – 18% increase

40

114 – 14% increase

117 – 17% increase

50

110 – 10% increase

116 – 16% increase

There is nothing we can do about radiation or insolation, other than to keep the panels in good condition and ensure that they’re not shaded.

Temperature is the biggest danger as power output decreases in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent. The specifications of standard panels provided by the manufacturers provide the panel’s power output in watts that is based on temperatures that are 25 ° C. The problem is that the temperature of panel surfaces can easily exceed the temperature of 65° C during summer.

Tilt angle and orientation are two things that we definitely can alter and some owners of fixed arrays can adjust the angles a masse during the seasons to ensure that the tilt angle is at the ideal angle.

Install a solar tracker for your home or add additional solar panels?

In addition to the cost of installation, which is around $3/watt the cost of purchasing equipment amounts to $1.70. What is the actual cost of solar panels per watt is decreasing every year until, in the majority of places in 2021, it’s less than $1 per watt.

For the majority of homeowners, it’s not worth the effort to install an intricate piece of equipment, such as the sun-tracker when they can just put in several solar panels and get the same result, especially when they have the space on their roof for the installation.

The sun tracker we used in our study saved 2133 kWh/year. This energy produced by solar panels required to compensate for this increase in output is the energy savings divided by the peak hours of sunlight in the year:

  • 2133 / 1422 peak-sun-hours = 1.5kW

For around $4000, an additional 1.5 energy-efficient solar array can be connected for the same effect but with longer lasting and lower maintenance.

solar tracking

The following diagram shows the differences between dual-axis solar trackers and solar panels fixed for 24 hours. The power of the array is 100 kw. This is much more than the standard home system. When it comes to massive systems, savings are significant.


Final Thoughts

Verdict

  • Solar tracking systems enable solar panels to track the sun’s path through the sky, generating more solar energy.
  • Although solar trackers increase solar panels’ energy output, they are extremely expensive and could increase the price of installing solar panels.
  • In many instances, it’s more economical to add more solar panels to boost the energy efficiency of the system than to set up a solar tracker.
  • If you are in a tight space and are unable to install additional solar panels and a solar tracker may be the ideal option for you.

For the purposes of educational interest, I can recommend the DIY solar tracking system kit

KEYESTUDIO DIY Solar Tracking Electronic Kit

Robotistan – Solar Tracker System

Dual Axis Smart Solar Tracker


FAQ

FAQ

Is Solar Tracker Worth It?

It all depends on the particular situation. In certain cases the dual-axis tracker might be the ideal choice for certain models, however with others, it is advisable to use a single-axis solar tracker, or a passive solar tracker may be the best choice. In the year 2019, NEXTracker was the most well-known solar tracker.

What Difference Can The Solar Tracker Create?

The main benefit of solar tracking systems is the increase in the production of electricity. In general, a solar panel that has a single-axis solar tracker is able to achieve a performance increase between 25 and 35 percent. The dual-axis tracker can bump performance by 5 or 10 percent.

How Much Money Can You Get With Solar Energy?

A typical residential solar system produces between 350 to 850-kilowatt hours (kWh) every month. The average house consumes 909 kWh each month, which means that having solar panels can help you save up to 90 percent of your month-long electricity bill.

Is There A More Effective Solar Tracker?

It is based on a variety of aspects: the kind of solar tracker used, the place it is located, as well as what size solar system it operates on.

Are There Solar Panels That Tracks The Sun?

Solar panels can’t follow the sun by themselves however, with the help of the solar tracker you can configure your system to track the sun’s path to maximize power output.


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Thomas Harder

Is an environmental and renewable energy specialist with over 10 years of expertise within the renewable and solar industry. With over a decade of experience in various organizations within the field He runs Mysolarperks as a passion-driven project that promotes sustainable renewable energy ideas and products.
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