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Fixed Solar Panels Vs Sun Tracking

Is It Worth the Investment? Fixed Solar Panels Vs Sun Tracking

Saturday May 18, 2024 at 3:14 pm

Solar panels are cost-effective if you are looking for a single-source solution for domestic electrical needs. However, expanding the technology for your commercial needs increases the operational effectiveness. In addition, you can install the technology on the ground, ensuring an optimum angle for maximum coverage as the sun follows its arc. 

Sun tracking technology seems to be the ideal solution for improved efficiency rather than investing in more panels to widen reach. But there are some factors to consider before deciding the best solution for you.

 “The tracking system entails more maintenance and installation costs than the fixed-racking system”, Clenergy pointed out during a recent Webinar.  

Pros and Cons of Tracker and Fixed Tilt Systems

Trackers are ideal for operations with high energy requirements. They yield several advantages, such as the following:

  • Higher energy output since the glass panes tracks the sun’s movements. 
  • Wide range of options, which makes it easier to find one that’s right for you.
  • You can produce more energy during peak hours. 
  • You can optimize your limited space since you cut the number of panels you use.
  • Trackers are the best solution for countries in high-latitude locations, which means extreme changes in the sun’s movements during the dry or cold seasons. 

Meanwhile, as the name suggests, fixed solar panels stay locked in position regardless of the sun’s movements. 

However, the fixed-racking system also has several advantages over tracker technology:

  • The raw materials are significantly cheaper than solar trackers, which makes them attractive to investors.
  • Fixed-racking technology is designed to withstand harsher conditions as opposed to trackers. 
  • Installing the technology is pretty straightforward, and the maintenance costs are cheaper.  

For instance, you can get away with an annual inspection for your fixed-racking solar panels, a privilege you won’t enjoy with trackers.  

Cost Vs. Benefits 

When choosing solar technology, the cost will be the primary consideration. So, developers can deploy more modules if the solar modules are cheaper. In this case, they tend to choose the fixed design. 

On the other hand, when the raw materials are higher, developers need to optimize the generation yield, which makes solar trackers promising.    

But on the installation costs alone, mounting a tracker is more expensive than fixed tilt. 

Jithesh Dev, Head of Renewable Energy at GiaLai Electric Company, stated that the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) costs for tracker technology are 13% higher than the fixed system. 

Over time, he said the cost difference between the two systems would be 15-20%. The good news is that energy generation can recoup the EPC cost over a specific period. In the meantime, the excess energy the investor sells to the grid will cover maintenance and overhead costs. 

In conclusion, the investor must work out the financial model to determine solid ROIs for the investment. A considerable consideration of whether solar tracking would be a viable investment is the willingness of the government to provide incentives. 

With that said, both technologies are not mutually exclusive. For example, some solar farms employ both fixed-racking and sun-tracking panels for optimum results. It’s also an excellent idea, so you can test out the conditions in your location using real-time parameters. After a specific period of assessment, you can then decide where to funnel your investments.

FAQs

What is the most energy-efficient solar tracker?

Solar trackers use the single-axis or double-axis system. The former will follow the horizontal movement of the sun, while the latter technology will track both the vertical and horizontal courses. The dual-axis will potentially produce 40% more energy in terms of generation. Solar trackers can also be passive or active. As you might expect, active tracking costs more than the standard model. There are also manual trackers, which require regular adjustments by a worker to track the sun.

Why is the solar tracker more costly than the fixed panels?

It’s not uncommon for trackers to double installation and operational expenses compared to fixed-racking solar farms. The reason for the added expense is the more complicated technology that it uses. The same technology also factors into the higher maintenance costs to ensure that your panels are working optimally. Meanwhile, you need specially trained installers to mount the structure, which adds to the charges. In contrast, fixed solar systems require little to no maintenance, significantly reducing overhead.  

Should I choose a fixed-racking or solar tracker system?

The answer depends on multiple factors, which require an expert’s structural/civil engineer on the ground. Generally speaking, if your energy requirements are pretty low, adding more panels is more cost-effective than installing tracker technology. For corporations with large energy consumptions, sun trackers have higher outputs, so they can absorb more energy to support their operational needs. They can recoup some of their investments when they sell the excess power to the grid.