Mainly used in commercial and industrial applications, solar tracking systems make adjustments to PV panels so that they can follow the path of the sun throughout the day. This increases their power output and overall efficiency.
Quite a lot of DIY enthusiasts have taken on the challenge of building their own tracking systems for home solar panels and have been very successful.
So, the question is, is solar tracking worth it?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of solar tracking systems to help you make an informed decision.
- 1 What Is A Solar Tracker?
- 2 How Much Does A Solar Tracker Cost?
- 3 What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using A Solar Tracker?
- 3.1 Pros of solar trackers
- 3.2 Generate more energy than a fixed system.
- 3.3 Some utilities offer Time of Use (TOU) rate plans.
- 3.4 Solar inverter monitoring app.
- 3.5 You can buy your own DIY solar tracking kits.
- 3.6 Cons of solar trackers
- 3.7 The more expensive option.
- 3.8 Sometimes cheaper to install more panels
- 3.9 More maintenance is required than a fixed system
- 3.10 Less field adjustability than single-axis tracking systems
- 4 Do Solar Trackers Work In All Climates?
- 5 Are Solar Trackers Worth The Additional Investment?
What Is A Solar Tracker?
Solar tracking is a method of placing an item at an angle with respect to the Sun.
Solar trackers are used most frequently to maintain PV (photovoltaic) panels perpendicular to the rays of the sun and space telescopes so that they can observe the direction of the sun.
There are two main types of solar trackers available on the market:
- Single-axis solar tracker
- Dual-axis solar tracker
Single-axis solar tracker
The most popular type of solar tracking device is a single-axis solar tracking system has a tilted PV panel mount and one electric motor to move the panel on an approximate route relative to the Sun’s movement.
The rotation axis can be horizontal, vertical, or slanted.
The horizontal single-axis tracker (HSAT), orients the PV panel along a north-south line and tilts it from east to west throughout the day. The angle of tilt is generally between 15° and 45°.
Dual-axis solar tracker
The sun’s angle of elevation and its east-west location are both tracked by the twin-axis solar tracker, which is also known as a heliostat.
The dual axis works in the same way as a single axis, but it captures solar energy more effectively by rotating its axis along vertical and horizontal axes.
Related: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
How Much Does A Solar Tracker Cost?
The price of a photovoltaic solar system with trackers may be much higher. A typical 4 kW ground-mounted solar system will cost around $13,000. Trackers can range in price from $500 per panel to over $1,000 per panel.
In addition, the installation of a tracking system is more complicated than that of a fixed system, and it usually requires the services of a professional solar installer.
Solar trackers are most commonly used in large commercial or utility-scale solar installations where the extra cost is offset by the increase in electricity production.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using A Solar Tracker?
Pros of solar trackers
- Generate more energy than a fixed system.
- Some utilities offer Time of Use (TOU) rate plans.
- Solar inverter monitoring app.
- You can buy your own DIY solar tracking kits.
Generate more energy than a fixed system.
Since they are able to track the sun throughout the day, solar trackers are able to generate up to 30% more electricity than a fixed system.
This is because they are able to capture more direct sunlight, which results in higher efficiency and output from the PV panels.
Some utilities offer Time of Use (TOU) rate plans.
If your utility offers a TOU rate plan, you can save money by generating electricity during times of day when rates are higher.
Solar inverter monitoring app.
If you have a solar tracker, you can use a solar inverter monitoring app to see how much electricity your system is generating.
You can also use the app to see how much sunlight your PV panels are receiving.
You can buy your own DIY solar tracking kits.
If you’re handy, you can buy your own solar tracking kit and install it yourself.
There are a few companies that sell these kits, and they typically cost between $500 and $1,000 per panel.
Cons of solar trackers
- The more expensive option.
- Sometimes cheaper to install more panels.
- More maintenance is required than a fixed system.
- Less field adjustability than single-axis tracking systems.
The more expensive option.
Solar trackers are more expensive than fixed systems. That’s down to the tracking mechanism and any controllers needed to keep the system accurate.
Sometimes cheaper to install more panels
Solar trackers typically increase the cost of a photovoltaic solar system by 15% to 20%.
However, in some cases, it may be cheaper to install more PV panels instead of using a solar tracker.
More maintenance is required than a fixed system
Solar trackers require more maintenance than fixed systems.
This is because the moving parts are susceptible to wear and tear, and they need to be kept clean so that they can continue to track the sun accurately.
Less field adjustability than single-axis tracking systems
Solar trackers have less field adjustability than single-axis tracking systems. This means that they can only be installed in certain locations.
For example, on steep inclines, a fixed system may be a better option since the installation process would be much simpler.
Related: How Do Solar Panels Work?
Do Solar Trackers Work In All Climates?
Solar trackers work best in sunny climates, such as the southwestern United States.
They are less effective in cloudy or shady areas.
If you live in an area with a lot of trees or buildings, a solar tracker may not be the best option for you.
Are Solar Trackers Worth The Additional Investment?
Yes, solar trackers are worth the investment. Overall, a single-axis tracker may advance your output by 20-25% in most cases.
On top of that, with a dual-axis tracker, you can expect an additional 5-10 percent boost above and beyond that. However, this rarely justifies the greater expense.
The bottom line is that solar trackers are a great way to increase the efficiency of your solar PV system, and they can help you save money on your electricity bill.
If you live in a sunny climate and have the budget for it, a solar tracker is a great option for you.