Advanced Solar Tracking Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Advanced solar tracking systems adjust the angle of solar panels throughout the day to maximize sunlight capture and energy generation. These systems can significantly increase energy output compared to fixed-tilt systems.

Impact on climate action

Advanced Solar Tracking Systems in Utility Scale Solar PV enhance climate action by optimizing energy generation and increasing solar panel efficiency. By dynamically adjusting panel angles to track the sun’s movement, these innovations maximize energy output, reduce land use, and accelerate the adoption of clean, renewable solar energy, mitigating carbon emissions.

Underlying
Technology

  • Solar Tracking: Solar tracking systems adjust the angle of solar panels throughout the day to follow the sun’s path across the sky. This maximizes sunlight capture and increases energy generation compared to fixed-tilt systems.
  • Sensors and Control Systems: Advanced solar tracking systems use sensors to measure sunlight intensity and direction, and control algorithms to calculate the optimal panel angle. Motors then adjust the panels accordingly.
  • Single-Axis and Dual-Axis Tracking: Single-axis trackers rotate panels on one axis (typically east-west), while dual-axis trackers rotate panels on two axes (east-west and north-south), allowing for even more precise tracking.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Density Tracking Systems: Innovations in tracker design, such as those by Array Technologies, allow for more solar panels to be installed in a smaller area, reducing land requirements and installation costs.
  • Bifacial Tracking Systems: Some advanced trackers, like those offered by Soltec, are designed for bifacial solar panels, optimizing light capture from both sides of the panel.
  • Smart Tracking Algorithms: Advanced control algorithms and machine learning are being used to optimize tracking strategies based on real-time weather conditions and historical data, further maximizing energy generation.
  • Integrated Data Monitoring and Analytics: Some tracking systems offer integrated data monitoring and analytics capabilities, providing solar farm operators with valuable insights into system performance and potential issues.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Array Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: Array Technologies focuses on developing and manufacturing solar tracking systems that optimize the performance of utility-scale solar installations. Their solutions include single-axis and dual-axis trackers that follow the sun’s path throughout the day, maximizing energy capture and enhancing solar project economics.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Array Technologies stands out for its decades of experience in the solar tracking industry and its commitment to innovation and reliability. They offer robust, high-performance tracking systems designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions and deliver consistent energy output over the lifetime of solar projects.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Array Technologies serves utility-scale solar developers, EPC contractors, and project owners seeking cost-effective and reliable solar tracking solutions. Their systems are deployed in solar farms and utility-scale installations worldwide, helping customers maximize energy production and achieve project economics.
  • Nextracker:
    • Technology Enhancement: Nextracker specializes in advanced solar tracking and control systems for utility-scale solar projects. Their solutions include single-axis and dual-axis trackers equipped with intelligent algorithms and predictive analytics to optimize energy yield, reduce operation and maintenance costs, and enhance grid integration.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Nextracker stands out for its focus on innovation and digitalization in solar tracking technology. They leverage data analytics, machine learning, and IoT connectivity to continuously monitor and optimize solar plant performance, providing customers with real-time insights and actionable intelligence for maximizing energy production.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Nextracker serves utility-scale solar developers, EPC contractors, and asset owners seeking cutting-edge solar tracking solutions. Their advanced tracking systems are deployed in solar projects around the world, delivering superior energy yield, reliability, and performance optimization.
  • Soltec:
    • Technology Enhancement: Soltec specializes in the design, manufacturing, and installation of solar tracking systems for utility-scale solar projects. Their product portfolio includes single-axis and dual-axis trackers featuring innovative design features, such as self-powered trackers, bifacial module compatibility, and high wind tolerance, to maximize energy production and project profitability.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Soltec stands out for its focus on sustainability, innovation, and customer service. They offer customizable solar tracking solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of solar developers and EPC contractors, providing comprehensive support throughout the project lifecycle, from design and engineering to installation and commissioning.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Soltec serves utility-scale solar developers, EPC contractors, and asset owners worldwide, offering reliable and cost-effective solar tracking solutions. Their advanced tracking systems are deployed in diverse geographic regions and environmental conditions, helping customers optimize energy production and achieve long-term project success.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT conducts advanced research on Solar Tracking Systems for Utility Scale Solar PV, focusing on developing novel tracking technologies and control algorithms to optimize solar panel orientation and maximize energy yield.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves leveraging expertise in mechanical engineering, robotics, and control systems to design innovative tracking systems that improve the efficiency and reliability of solar photovoltaic installations.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in utility-scale solar farms, commercial solar installations, and off-grid electrification projects. For example, they’re researching dual-axis tracking systems that dynamically adjust the tilt and azimuth angles of solar panels to track the sun’s position throughout the day, developing smart tracking algorithms that consider factors such as weather conditions, shading effects, and energy demand patterns to optimize energy production and grid integration, and exploring low-cost, robust tracking mechanisms suitable for deployment in harsh environmental conditions.
  • Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University is actively involved in research on Advanced Solar Tracking Systems for Utility Scale Solar PV, exploring innovative approaches for improving the performance and cost-effectiveness of solar tracking technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves integrating insights from materials science, optics, and computer vision to develop next-generation tracking systems with enhanced precision, durability, and adaptability.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in large-scale solar power plants, distributed generation systems, and community solar initiatives. For instance, they’re researching bifacial solar panels and tracking systems that capture sunlight from both the front and back sides of the panels, increasing energy yield and reducing land use requirements, developing autonomous tracking algorithms that use machine learning and image processing techniques to optimize solar panel alignment based on real-time solar irradiance and cloud cover data, and exploring novel tracking architectures such as floating solar arrays and solar-powered drones for maximizing energy production in diverse geographic regions.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts pioneering research on Advanced Solar Tracking Systems for Utility Scale Solar PV, providing technical expertise and testing facilities for evaluating the performance and reliability of tracking technologies under real-world conditions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves field testing, performance modeling, and technology validation to accelerate the deployment of innovative tracking solutions in the solar energy industry.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in grid integration, renewable energy forecasting, and energy market participation. For example, they’re conducting field trials of advanced tracking systems at NREL’s outdoor test facilities, collecting data on energy yield, tracking accuracy, and maintenance requirements to assess the performance and cost-effectiveness of different tracking technologies, developing standardized test protocols and performance metrics for evaluating the reliability and bankability of solar tracking systems, and providing technical assistance and training programs for solar developers, utilities, and policymakers interested in adopting advanced tracking solutions for maximizing the value of utility-scale solar PV projects.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Advanced solar tracking systems are widely used in utility-scale solar farms, contributing to increased energy generation and improved project economics.