Professional solar contractors typically mount PV modules on fixed-tilt racks. But since the modules face the sun for just a portion of the day, a fixed solar array can result in energy production that is less than optimal.
Will your photovoltaic system create more electricity if your solar panels rotate to follow the sun’s movement? Perhaps, but energy output isn’t the only consideration in choosing a mounting system.
Solar trackers move throughout the day in order to stay aligned with the sun’s position in the sky.
Single-axis trackers follow the sun as it moves from east to west. Dual-axis sun tracking systems have two pivot points which allow them to change both the tilt and orientation of the PV modules.
Some trackers have motors or drives activated by electronic light sensors or software readings. Others rotate the solar panels using gravity — when solar heat hits a compressed liquid gas and causes its weight to shift, the PV modules move.
If you mount PV modules on solar trackers instead of fixed-tilt racks, you can expect greater energy production. According to industry experts, a sun-tracking system can boost output by 20 to 40 percent.
Because of the improved performance, sun trackers are considered better than fixed racks in terms of space efficiency — if you install a tracking system, you won’t need to install as many solar panels.
Sun-tracking systems are effective, but they come with two significant disadvantages.
First is cost. Choosing PV modules with solar trackers comes at a high price. And because of their complexity, trackers take longer to install — which means professional installation labor charges can be higher.
Second, when you mount PV modules on trackers, you’ll have to budget for regular maintenance. Fixed-tilt racks rarely need attention, but solar tracking systems have moving parts. Without proper care to keep them in good shape, the mechanisms can fail.
Should you install a fixed solar array? Or does it make better sense to mount PV panels on sun trackers?
For answers, you’ll need to consult with an experienced professional photovoltaic contractor. No one-size-fits-all answer exists. The decision really comes down to the specifics of your solar installation.
If the increased amount of energy you’ll get by installing solar trackers is enough to compensate for the added installation and maintenance costs over the lifetime of your PV modules, going with a sun tracking system could be a wise financial plan. If not (which is often the case), you’ll be better off with fixed-tilt racks.
As the leading photovoltaic contractors for Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming, the professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar can give you expert advice on choosing the right mounting system. To learn more about solar trackers or for help in choosing a cost-effective method to mount PV modules, contact us today.
"All of the photos on this website are of real projects that Intermountain Wind & Solar has designed and installed.
We are proud to show off and stand behind our work."