Rotating solar panels are getting a lot of media attention lately, and at first glance, they seem to have some benefits. Tracking systems move the panels throughout the day in order to keep them facing the sun. The longer they are aligned with the sun, the more energy they can produce – or at least that is the idea behind them. In reality, however, moving solar panels may not be the most practical choice for many homes and businesses.
In a direct comparison with fixed-tilt solar installations, rotating systems will virtually always be more expensive. This is due to a few factors. First of all, tracking panels have parts and machinery which are costlier to produce than the stationary variety, particularly for systems that track the sun on more than one axis. The complexity of installing rotating solar panel systems may also result in additional fees. Over the lifetime of the system, operations and maintenance costs of moving panels tend to be higher than upkeep costs for fixed-tilt systems. Land use costs must also be considered, as tracking panels must be spaced out over a larger area in order to function effectively.
Because they have no moving parts, fixed-tilt solar systems require little care other than an occasional inspection. Rotating panels, on the other hand, need to be regularly maintained in order to keep the machinery in good working order. With tracking systems, the panels are supported on pivoting platforms with wheels powered by a motorized drive to move the platforms along circular channels. Solar energy systems are typically expected to operate for at least 20 years, and that’s a lot of time for issues to crop up with the mechanized parts. With their many moving parts and pieces, tracking installations are much more likely to experience failure than fixed-tilt systems.
Photovoltaic or PV systems are often installed on roofs, as this can be effective in keeping the panels in full view of the sun. With some roofs, however, this may not be a viable option, due to the building’s orientation, the roof’s construction or overhanging trees and vegetation. In these cases, ground installation is recommended. Ground solar panel tracking systems aren’t guaranteed to provide a significant improvement in the amount of energy harvested over stationary panels. Rotating panels may be able to increase a system’s energy output, but properly installed fixed-tilt panels can provide the same level of output in most situations.
Rotating PV panel systems may make sense in some cases, but only if the increased amount of energy collected is substantial enough to compensate for the additional installation and maintenance costs and potential mechanical failure. Intermountain Wind and Solar, serving customers in the Salt Lake City area and throughout the Intermountain West, specializes in PV solar panel installation and system design. Contact us today for a free consultation and to learn about the many benefits of solar panels at your home or business.
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