When considering solar energy for your home or business, it’s essential to remember that not every building is suitable for a rooftop solar energy system. However, don’t worry if you find yourself in this situation. Upgrade options are available that can deliver improved performance, albeit at a slightly higher cost.
Exact Solar, your trusted solar energy provider, can help you explore these options and recommend a standard ground-mounted system if it is appropriate for your situation. This type of system requires suitable adjoining land and can be a great alternative to rooftop solar. If you’re interested in learning more about ground-mounted solar energy systems, click this link to get started.
Rooftop and ground mounted solar energy systems are generally designed to be “fixed tilt”, where the angle (tilt) of the panels relative to the earth stays the same. Solar Trackers are also ground mounted systems, with a difference:
They are designed to change the tilt of multiple solar panels at one time.
Relying on sensors and actuators, these systems automatically move the panels to more directly face the sun.
Depending on design, over time the devices can produce from 10% to as much as 45% more electricity when compared to the same panels mounted as fixed-tilt.
Solar Trackers require motors and different racking and support structures. This adds varying degrees of cost and weight. For the vast majority of homeowners and small businesses a rooftop solar energy system will still deliver great value, thanks to pricing and years of design experience. The energy demands can be met while the savings will quickly pay back the initial investment and lead to years of low cost or no cost electricity.
We provide tracker options for special circumstances where they may be the better option. Our goal for our customer is always to make sure the customer is getting the best value at the best cost.
In the most basic sense, solar trackers are designed to rotate along either one axis (single-axis tracker) or two (dual-axis tracker).
As the names imply, a single-axis tracker rotates a row or many rows of panels along an axis. This design is suitable for moderately sized residential solar installations all the way up to very large utility scale installations. This design typically delivers from 10% to 25% more energy when compared to the equivalently sized fixed-tilt ground mounted solar energy system.
A dual-axis tracker requires more hardware, more sophisticated controls, and usually more space to allow the freedom of movements. Most dual-axis trackers are designed to deliver from 20% to 45% more energy when compared to the equivalently sized fixed-tilt ground mounted solar energy system. Often this design may be the only way to fully offset a site’s annual energy demand. However, most of the unique circumstances making solar trackers a more viable option are satisfied by lower cost, less complex, and slightly more reliable single-axis designs.
The Purpose of Solar Trackers
Solar energy technology has been evolving to meet the growing demand for efficient and cost-effective energy production. Solar energy developers have been focusing on improving energy production while reducing the cost per kWh and utilizing smaller spaces to achieve this. One approach to achieving this goal is by enhancing the productivity of existing solar panels. Solar trackers are an excellent alternative in this regard. By following the sun more accurately, solar trackers are able to make better use of the available sunlight at any given time. This has the potential to significantly increase energy production, making solar energy even more accessible and affordable to people worldwide.
Background on Daily Solar Energy
Several factors affect the amount of sunlight we receive throughout the year. The sun moves across the sky from sunrise to sunset every day, no matter where you are. However, depending on your location, the sun’s position in the sky will vary with the changing seasons. This is particularly noticeable at higher latitudes, such as in the northern United States, where the impact of the seasons on available solar energy is more pronounced.
It’s worth noting that weather patterns and atmospheric conditions can also influence the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface. For example, cloudy or overcast days will have less solar energy available than clear, sunny days. Additionally, air pollution and other environmental factors can affect the quality and intensity of sunlight.
When a solar panel is fixed-mounted, it only receives maximum solar energy in the middle of the day when the sunlight directly hits it. As the day progresses, the energy the panel generates per hour (Wh) decreases due to the increasingly indirect light. Fortunately, changing the solar panel’s position over time can help reverse this trend. Whether mounted on a pitched roof or a ground-mounted array with an engineered tilt, adjusting the position of the panel to follow the sun’s path throughout the day can help maximize its energy output. This relatively straightforward solution ensures that your solar panel is working at its full potential.
As the sun moves through the sky, less direct sunlight strikes the panels. The lower intensity results in less energy production as the sun moves further from the center (midday).
As the sun moves through the sky, the panel positions change. This allows more direct sunlight to strike the panel throughout the day. The net result is an increase in energy output.
Using sensors and actuators, solar trackers almost continuously reposition an array of panels at one time.
Single-axis trackers maximize daily energy production.
This style adds an extra dimension to ground mounted solar energy systems. Where a ground mounted solar panel is fixed in all dimensions, the single-axis design frees up motion in one direction in order to maximize daily energy production. We engineer both designs so that the panels are in the best year-round position on the fixed-axis. That is, the tilt or angle of the panels is optimized relative to the north-south direction so that energy production overall is good enough from winter to summer.
Dual-axis trackers improve year round production.
This style adds two extra dimensions. In addition to improving the daily production as do single-axis systems, these designs also increase production throughout the seasons as the solar panels can be repositioned (re-tilted) to even more directly capture the sunlight from winter to summer.
Determining whether a solar tracker is the best solution for your needs can be complex. Various factors come into play, and the value of solar trackers can vary depending on your unique circumstances. At Exact Solar, we have the experience and expertise to assess every option and recommend the best solution for you. Whether you’re considering a rooftop solar energy system, a fixed-tilt ground-mounted system, or a solar tracker design, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in making the right decision for your solar energy needs.
Learn more about the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) energy efficiency programs and incentives.
Learn more about the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) energy efficiency assistance and incentives.