Should Your Solar Array Have a Sun Tracker System?

Designing your solar array involves the careful consideration of several factors, including grid connection, the size and number of photovoltaic panels you need and the type of inverter you to prefer use. But your mounting system is equally important.

Should you choose to install your solar panels on fixed-tilt racks angled upward to face the sun? Or is it wiser to choose a tracking system that allows your panels to rotate to follow the sun’s movement?

How Solar Array Tracking Systems Work

Tracking systems, also known as trackers, move your system’s photovoltaic panels throughout the day to follow the path of the sun.

A single-axis system tracks the sun from east to west, keeping the solar panels directly in the sunshine from sunrise to sunset. Dual-axis trackers have a second pivot point that allows them to also change the tilt of the modules to capture even more of the sun’s rays.

Tracker systems may be either passive or active.

Passive systems use solar heat and gravity to move the photovoltaic panels. Compressed liquid gas flows from one side of the array to the other as it heats, shifting the weight and turning the panels.

Active trackers, on the other hand, rely on electronic light sensors or software to follow the movements of the sun, using motor or actuator drives to move the photovoltaic panels.

Pros and Cons of Solar Array Tracking Systems

Installing a tracking system can increase your photovoltaic array’s energy output.

According to Greentech Media, an industry research and news organization, trackers can potentially improve the production of solar energy systems by 20 to 40 percent.

This boost in efficiency comes at a price, however, as tracking systems are more expensive than fixed-tilt mounting racks — in some cases, much more expensive.

The parts and machinery are costlier to produce, and installation is more complicated. In addition, maintenance and repairs may be necessary with these systems, as the motorized components can fail.

Considerations for Your Solar Array

A tracking system adds to the cost of your solar array, although the amount of the increase depends on your individual needs.

So, is this a worthwhile investment?

For some customers it may be, if the increased amount of energy captured by your photovoltaic panels will offset the cost of installing and maintaining the trackers over the lifetime of your system.

For many grid-tied residential solar energy systems, it may not make good economic sense to install trackers. As the prices of photovoltaic panels have dramatically dropped over the last several years, it may be less expensive to install a larger fixed array to maximize energy production instead.

Intermountain Wind & Solar can explain all of your options for both fixed PV panel arrays and those designed to track the sun’s movement. We can help you evaluate the costs involved relative to your cost savings over time to help you make the right choice.

Contact us today to learn more about installing a solar array at your home or business location.

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