Optimizing PV Plant Performance: Trackers with Highest Reliability and Lowest Cost of Ownership
For solar developers and asset owners, trackers have become an increasingly crucial component of any utility-scale site; primarily for their ability to boost production by an average of 20% over fixed-tilt solutions. Because of this, over the past 11 years, the use of trackers in utility-scale PV applications has increased by 64%. This explosion of the industry has led to many new entrants in the market, creating a crowded landscape with varying technologies and architectures. However, not all trackers are built equally and each technology could have varying implications on yield and cost. Developers and owners must consider the most efficient products to maximize the long-term yield and reliability of their assets while also minimizing upfront and lifetime expenses. The long-term economic health and levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of a solar project can hinge on selecting the best trackers for the job.
Improving Solar Asset Value with Reliable Trackers
The benefits of solar trackers over fixed-tilt solutions are well documented, but let’s quickly review the basics:
Increased project ROI: Solar trackers boost energy production by 20% on average over fixed-tilt solutions for a minimal increase in CAPEX costs, typically 10% or less.
Optimized Power Delivery Curve: Solar tracking provides a wider power delivery curve with a smooth flow of energy production starting earlier and ending later in the day.
Meeting Utility-Scale Demands: In relation to the points above, solar tracking ultimately provides a significant increase in production that better coincides with the peak power needs of the grid.
While these are general benefits of solar trackers over fixed-tilt solutions, it’s important to note that they can vary greatly by vendor and tracker architecture. To extract these benefits at their highest potential, a project owner must ensure the tracker is built to last and consider the O&M implications of the design.
For instance, depending on the tracker technology architecture selected, a typical 100 MW site can require either a few hundred or over 20,000 electronic and electromechanical components such as motors, controllers and sensors. Each component included in the project design represents a maintenance consideration and a potential failure point, spread out over hundreds of miles. These devices need to operate reliably not only in normal conditions, but also in extreme weather events such as high winds or heavy snow loads. Minimizing potential points of failure with streamlined technology is a crucial factor to maintaining high performance despite harsh weather.