Solar trackers: efficiency improvements?

This data-file quantifies solar trackers’ efficiency improvements. Depending on location, 40-90% of new utility-scale solar plants are being fitted with ‘trackers’ in the early-2020s; constantly re-positioning panels to face the sun, as it arcs across the sky, and as this arc varies season-by-season, due to the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth on its axis of rotation.

Depending on the installation, trackers will typically add $0.1-1.0W to total costs, with a good ballpark estimate being a $0.2/W or c20% cost increase for utility-scale systems.

These trackers earn their keep by increasing productivity by 20-40% compared with fix-tile systems, which is quantified in this data-file, by aggregating the details from c30 technical papers and other sources.

A good rule of thumb is that a single-axis tracker adds 15% plus 0.35% per degree of latitude; while a dual-axis tracker adds 30% plus 0.25% per degree of latitude.

Latitude matters because the further a location is from the equator, the more variably the sun will arc across the sky in different seasons, especially during the summer solstice (worked examples are given in the data-file), comparing London, Singapore and Estonia, based on an excellent online resource here.

Solar trackers’ efficiency improvements are not evenly spaced throughout the year; performance additions may be around 40-50% higher in summer and c10-20% in the winter, versus typical fixed or horizontal baselines.

One of the leading providers of solar tracker systems is Array Technologies, assessed in our patent review here. Read our recent commentary on Solar trackers here.

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