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solar tracker

Soltec, a leading company in the manufacture and supply of single-axis solar trackers, forecasts the sale of 3 GW for utility-scale solar plants this year that will close 2019 with a record of almost 10 GW and a turnover of some US$400m.

Since its foundation in 2004, this Spanish entity has significantly grown its sales year after year. Soltec invoiced almost US$200m in 2018, an amount that is expected to double in 2019, representing a growth of 121%.

Soltec has more than one hundred projects worldwide and is market leader in Brazil, Peru and Colombia. It is also continuing to consolidate its position in the solar power market with revolutionary products such as its SF7 solar tracker and the SP7 Bifacial whose design has been optimised to achieve a maximum yield from bifacial modules.

“This year to date, the trend in bifacial technology is the key to utility-scale PV projects. Eight out of every ten quote requests are for bifacial, confirming our company’s commitment to innovation and research in bifacial technology”, explains Eduardo de San Nicolás, product manager at Soltec.

With its strong commitment to innovation and the development of proprietary technologies, in 2018 Soltec inaugurated its Bifacial Tracker Evaluation Center (BiTEC), to study the performance of bifacial modules in different conditions including albedo, height, distance between modules and module temperature. The research also aims to establish the best tracker design for the implementation of bifacial modules.

With 15 years of experience in the sector and over 35 patents, Soltec is present across the five continents. The company already has offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, the US, India, Italy, Israel, Mexico and Peru. With a development-based business model, Soltec has become a European reference in the renewable energy sector while modelling its economic growth based on care for the environment.

The SOLTEC team

Soltec’s growth is linked to its workforce. The company current has a staff of around 1,500 personnel distributed across projects and subsidiaries worldwide. As part of its commitment to job creation and the search for talent, Soltec has recently launched the second edition of the Solteach study grant, a programme that sets out to give the best professionals the opportunity receive a first-hand training in renewables from one of the business references for the sector in Spain, which has achieved a spectacular growth in recent years.

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Increasing resistance to the effects of wind is one of the main objectives of any company that designs solar trackers, and the new Axial Tracker with its innovative Blocking System is the first solar tracker on the market to achieve it.

After months of in-depth studies, Axial manages to limit the problems of dynamic instability that have led to numerous stability problems for the first solar trackers on the market.

The new solution designed by Axial doubles the admissible speed at which the aeroelastic phenomena take place and consists of an innovative locking system with which, in addition to addressing the problems derived from the wind in the structure of the solar tracker, it is possible to increase the safety of the product during its life cycle by reducing movements and vibrations, which also reduces the micro-rotating problems in the panels and does not increase the maintenance cost.

The process is simple and efficient: the Blocking System converts the solar tracker into a fixed structure for 98% of the time. The 2% of the remaining time, in which the tracker is in movement towards its optimum angle of generation, the system works as a shock absorber with a high damping coefficient, ensuring the defines. Once this movement is finished, the system is blocked again, matching the behaviour of the tracker to that of a fixed structure.

Axial Structural Solutions has a long history of designing and manufacturing customized solutions for each project. In each of them, the seismic, wind and snow conditions are analysed so that trackers adapt to the demands of each solar plant, and this experience is reflected in the creation of the new Axial Tracker with Blocking System.

Currently, the blocking system is being implemented in photovoltaic plants in Mexico, Spain, Chile and France with more than 270 MW of Axial Tracker installed in the first half of the year. The Axial Tracker with Blocking System is thus positioned in the field of solar energy as an adaptive and safe system that avoids damage that adverse weather conditions may cause the equipment, marking the future of safety in the solar tracking market.

Source: Axial

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Data obtained at BiTEC indicates that bifacial modules on a Soltec SF7 solar tracker achieve a bifacial gain of up to 19.2% in conditions of high albedo. With medium albedo, the bifacial gain of the SF7 bifacial tracker achieved almost 12%. Initial data shows that the SF7 bifacial solar tracker achieves a 2.4% higher bifacial gain compared to trackers with modules in a 1-in-Portrait configuration.

The field of bifacial module technology has once again revolutionised the solar energy arena. Bifacial technology is influencing both the design of fixed solar power tracking assemblies as well as the design of the plants themselves, albeit to a lesser extent. Design aspects that used to be considered as insignificant with monofacial modules are increasingly important and are making the difference between efficient and inefficient bifacial plants. This difference could represent millions of Euros.

Bifacial plants must optimise production on both the front and the rear sides of the module to improve the bifacial gain, in other words, the energy gain produced on the rear side of the module as opposed to the front side. This is affected by parameters such as the albedo, the height of the mounting, shadows, module temperature and the distance between rows.

With the aim of analysing every parameter that impacts on bifacial gain, in July 2018, leading solar tracking company Soltec, inaugurated its Bifacial Tracker Evaluation Center (BiTEC) in California. This centre aims to enhance its knowledge of bifacial behaviour by adapting the modules to enable continued advancement in the technological development of bifacial solar tracking. The research centre is equipped with 18 solar trackers (300 kWp) installed in areas with different albedo conditions, pitches and heights. For this, Soltec is working with the National Renewable Laboratory (NREL), Black & Veatch and the Renewable Energy Test Center (RETC), as well as with the leading module manufacturers such as Canadian Solar, Hanwha Q CELLS, Jinko, LG, LONGi and REC.

BiTEC has enabled Soltec to measure the bifacial gain of the solar trackers under real conditions in addition to comparing the two most widely used configurations on today’s solar tracker market: 1-in-Portrait (1P) and 2-in-Portrait (2P). The results for the first period, analysed following the methodology endorsed by Black & Veatch, show that the solar panels mounted on the SF7 bifacial solar tracker in a 2P configuration demonstrated a 2.4% higher gain over the same modules in a 1P configuration.

The measurements taken at BiTEC between September and November 2018 show bifacial gains of over 19% for individual bifacial modules on an SF7 bifacial tracker with an albedo of 63% and white ground cover. It is estimated that even with lower albedo values and bifacial gain, the economics of a hypothetical project that uses bifacial modules on SF7 bifacial trackers continue to be better than those of the same project using bifacial or monofacial modules on 1P trackers. The bifacial gain of the individual bifacial modules on an SF7 bifacial tracker is 2.4% higher than that of the same modules on a IP solar tracker, according to data gathered at BiTEC. The greatest bifacial gain of the SF7 bifacial tracker is due to the absence of shadows on the rear side of the modules meaning that they can operate at a lower temperature.

Based on the results obtained at BiTEC, estimates from Soltec indicate that the use of bifacial modules in place of monofacial trackers in PV plants can generate economic advantages and thereby improve the return on investment.

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Soltec manufactured its first tracker designed for the mounting of bifacial panels in Chile in 2015 and in 2018 opened a bifacial tracking research centre in California. Such commitment is easy to explain: a bifacial solar tracker harvests energy from both its front and rear side, capturing the sunlight reflected on the ground. And under the right conditions, yield will increase by more than 30%.

The standard features of the SF7 solar tracker from Soltec provide bifacial compatibility due to the higher mounting height, a shadow-free backside and wider service aisles between tracker rows. These features mean that the bifacial modules are further off the ground, reducing the intensity of the shading on the tracker itself while enhancing bifacial gain. It also avoids the main disadvantage of most solar trackers: the axis casting shadows on the backside of the bifacial panel.

The double-width aisles between the SF7 tracker rows help increase the capture of the albedo reflected from the ground and from the solar modules of adjacent trackers. Wider aisles also facilitate the passage of array washing and vegetation control vehicles, thereby reducing O&M costs.

The SF7 Bifacial harvests energy from both its front and rear sides, as it captures the sunlight reflected on the ground beneath the solar tracker. Given the right conditions, energy production increases by more than 30%. The solar tracker from Soltec has recently been supplied for a solar project in the Israeli region of Merhavim and Bnei Shimon. The project has a total capacity of 17 MW, of which 2 MW is produced by bifacial modules. The plant is equipped with a total of 534 units of the SF7 Single-Axis Tracker and 64 units of the SF7 Bifacial.

As Emilio Alfonso, commercial vice-president of Soltec for the EMEA region, explains: “the main challenges of this project stem from the extreme weather conditions inherent to a high altitude, desert location. Logistics created challenges when complying with the works schedule, given its location a long way from urban centres and main roads. Fortunately, our experience allows us to successfully work under this type of conditions”.

Pioneers in bifacial tracking

Soltec is a pioneer in bifacial tracking. By 2015 it had already manufactured the first tracker specifically designed to be mounted with bifacial panels for a plant located close to the La Silla European Southern Observatory in Chile. This 1.72 MWp PV plant is for experimental purposes and represents the innovation, research and development invested, making the La Silla solar tracking plant an exceptional project.

Promoted by the Italian developer Enel Green Power, with Soltec responsible for its installation and design, this plant is located on the fringes of the Atacama Desert, in the region of Coquimbo. The site stands at an altitude of 1,800 metres and covers half the energy demand of the European Southern Observatory. Its location is no coincidence for an experimental installation of this type, given that the clean atmosphere of the area facilitates the research work.

The project, which continues to be the only one of its type in the world, incorporates major PV industry innovations. Two different types of trackers have been used for three different types of modules with the aim of analysing both efficiency and productivity. For this, Soltec has specifically designed two different tracker models to maximise the production of the modules used: in the first place, conventional polycrystalline; and secondly, polycrystalline with electronic optimisation which improves efficiency under certain conditions. Lastly, bifacial technology which is the most important type of module at this solar plant.

As a result of this project, Soltec has developed the first solar tracker with bifacial modules specifically designed for industrial plants. This tracker maximises the PV yield of the bifacial module thanks to the fact it makes use of the solar energy reflected on the ground. Bifacial panels have the capacity to harvest this diffuse energy. For conventional modules and optimised modules, Soltec has designed and installed a solar tracker configured with 4 rows of 19 modules in a horizontal layout.

Moreover, the standard design of the solar trackers from Soltec offers one of the highest tolerance levels to gradients on the market: up to 17% in a N-S orientation, thereby minimising earthworks, trench laying and internal roads. The selected configurations create spacious aisles which make O&M work more efficient.

The entire implementation and development of new technologies reflect the research mission of the plant. The project developer, Enel Green Power, decided to use this plant as an experimental field in which to test different technologies under real conditions in order to improve the future of PV production.

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Soltec, a leading manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers and related services in large ground-mount PV projects, presents Dy-WIND, an innovative method for comprehensive dynamic analysis in tracker wind-design. Soltec has decided to undertake this project after several studies have shown that certain wind-design code standards applied to solar trackers are insufficient to design these structures reliably, as they do not consider the second order effects produced by the action of wind on the tracker.

Conventional wind tunnels use rigid models that do not consider fluid-structure interaction effects such as the aeroelastic response of the structure. These phenomena cause instabilities (torsional galloping/flutter) that can produce the collapse of the trackers. The structure and its components must be designed stiffer and more robust than only applying the unsafe and incomplete current wind regulations and standards.

Only Soltec applies Dy-WIND analysis to tracker wind-design for accurate modeling that leads to precise manufacturing processes,” declared Raúl Morales, CEO of Soltec. “This is essential to making economic calculations regarding the profitability and robustness of a solar tracker plant.

With Dy-WIND, two types of wind tunnel tests are carried out to obtain the necessary aerodynamic parameters of scale models and precious results for the implementation of calculation methods that provide a realistic response of the behavior of solar trackers under the action of the wind.

  • Wind tunnel pressure tests: Static Wind Loading Coefficients are combined with Dynamic Amplification Factors (DAF) to cover the design wind speed ranges, considering the airflow wake behind each row.
  • Wind tunnel dynamic tests: Aerodynamic derivatives obtained allow accurate knowledge of the tracker’s response to wind action. Such parameters are combined with numerical models to obtain Fluttering and Buffeting Analysis Methods.

To develop Dy-WIND, Soltec has teamed up with the renowned engineering consultancy Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc (RWDI), which specializes in wind engineering projects. Matthew T. L. Browne, Technical Director at RWDI, said: “the hybrid experimental-numerical approach developed through working with Soltec accurately estimates tracker behavior under the action of wind in multi-row arrays and allows flexibility in the design process that is generally not practical through full aeroelastic model testing.”

RWDI already has the expertise and wind tunnels that use stereolithography technology, integrated data acquisition, storage and processing systems, computer-aided drafting and a broad base of specialized instrumentation. Some of the most notable projects in which the firm has participated are the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai or the Messina Strait Bridge in Italy.

Soltec’s global operations and workforce of over 750 people blend experience with innovation. The company has manufacturing facilities in Argentina, Brazil, China, and Spain, as well as offices in Australia, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. With a strong commitment to renewable energy and the environment, the company is dedicated to innovation, product standardization, and customer success.

Dy-WIND takes its place in the extensive list of Soltec historic innovations made standard features that have resulted in the next-generation-now SF7 solar PV tracker whose mission is to find lower cost electricity for customers within their challenging tracker projects.

Source: Soltec

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Array Technologies is continuing to grow business at a steadfast pace. The company entered the Australian market just 18 months ago, and has since been awarded 15 projects exceeding 1 GW of installed capacity, making it the fastest tracker supplier to reach the milestone in the Australian marketplace. GTM Research released its annual tracker report noting the company has taken an impressive 55 percent market share in Australia.

Australia is one of the most promising solar markets globally for solar tracker deployment. The Australian Photovoltaic Institute estimates that a pipeline of around 35 GW of utility scale solar PV projects are in various stages of development. On the back of this, the growth in the demand for solar trackers is unparalleled: 83 percent of utility scale projects currently being installed in the country are deploying solar tracking technology.

The 15 projects in which Array is currently involved cover a wide range of climactic zones, each bringing with it unique installation and design challenges. Seven of the 15 projects Array is currently supplying are in Queensland, five in New South Wales, two in Victoria, and one in Western Australia. One particular project highlight is the 148 MW Ross River project in Northern Queensland. The utility-scale project is located 16 km north of Townsville, in an area classified as Wind Region C – making it prone to tropical cyclones.

The Array DuraTrack HZ v3 can withstand both the sustained high winds and extreme wind gusts, even exceeding 200 km/h, in the event of a Tropical Cyclone. It has attained AS 11.70 certification for Wind Region C operation. Additionally, its passive wind mitigation system vastly reduces the risk of failure in the event of high winds.

Alongside its robust design and operation, Array Technologies says its success in Australia is due to its architecture being particularly well suited to the Australian solar market. In comparison with other solar tracker architectures, the DuraTrack HZ v3 has 150 times fewer components, resulting in a massive reduction of potential failure points, and vastly lower operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Secondly, its simple design architecture makes it the fastest tracker to install, creating significant cost savings for installation.

Array anticipates continuing to grow its market share in Australia, with newly expanded offices, on-the-ground engineering, logistics support, and a substantial pipeline for 2019.

Source: Array Technologies

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Soltec, a leading manufacturer of solar trackers, is launching the Solteach Pro training program, aimed at solar industry companies and workers specifically regarding PV tracker application in large projects. Solteach Pro is imparted by Soltec’s highly experienced engineers and project managers to train and certify individuals or companies in the optimal application of the unique SF7 Single-Axis Tracker, from plant design to commissioning. Specifically, the Solteach Pro program is aimed at companies (subcontractors or customers) as well as workers, whether they are engineers, supervisors or assemblers.

SF7 is the ideal solar tracker for large-scale PV tracking projects with its features of high yield-gain performance and agile application. SF7 has incorporated a screwless and tool-free module installation which requires zero maintenance. SF7 reduces the number of parts, resulting in faster, easier and more efficient installation. Those features combined with extreme supply and service performance have driven Soltec and SF7 to the top-tier globally.

The Solteach Pro one-day program is structured with general content and two specific parts: Solteach Professional and Solteach Projects. Solteach Professional is designed to impart supply and installation skills with factory hands-on or online training where participants will learn best-practices in project supply and tracker installation to best leverage the Soltec offer. The contents of this training include factory service packages, construction planning, installation steps and commissioning of the plant.

On the other hand, Solteach Projects is focused on engineering application with Soltec’s dynamic PV plant design training and the objective to leverage SF7 Single-Axis Tracker features of yield-density and agile application. The contents of this training are: characteristics and advantages of the SF7, SF7 configurations, subfield design and plant design with AutoCAD.

Soltec CEO Raul Morales said, “Solteach Pro helps customers get the most out Soltec’s complete offer of a remarkable product and team dedication to finding success amongst challenges.

Solteach Pro complements Soltec’s Onsite Services. Those services include advisory, logistics, commissioning, and regionally available installation and O&M contracting.

The Onsite Advisory Plan service is cost-effective for many of Soltec’s customers. Onsite Soltec staff guide customers’ team through the details of logistics, site-work, and equipment installation in construction, leaving field team the additional scope of supervision, execution, and management. Onsite Advisory services combine strengths between project partners to reduce costs.
Soltec is prepared to take additional supervisory and task-scope across the range of Soltec Service Plans that standardize customer experience options.

Soltec’s Pull Testing Service is not common amongst tracker suppliers but has become the usual choice of Soltec customers to most simply reduce investment risk and conform with due diligence criteria in the pre-construction phase.

Soltec’s global operations and workforce of over 750 people blend experience with innovation. The company has manufacturing facilities in Argentina, Brazil, China, and Spain, as well as offices in Australia, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. With a strong commitment to renewable energy and the environment, the company is dedicated to innovation, product standardization, and customer success.

Source: Soltec

Soltec will supply and install 3,019 units of its SF7solar tracker at two PV power plants in Mexico. With these projects, Soltec strengthens its position in the Latin American market breaking through to more than 2 GW of solar trackers supplied there.

The power plants are located in the regions of Guanajuato and Aguascalientes in Mexico, and count on a power capacity of 22 MW and 68 MW respectively. They are to be installed by the end of 2018.
These two projects in Latin America build on Soltec’s successful track-record there,” said Soltec CEO Raúl Morales. “Our solar trackers enable higher yield and greater site-filling options, and reduce material and labor, all combining to achieve the highest grade of customer success.

The Guanajuato and Aguascalientes PV power plants will count on wireless communications and a patented self-powering solution that enables complete tracker module-fill and supplies the lowest cost operational power available onsite and independently at each tracker.

Meeting the tight supply deadlines is a challenge that Soltec is prepared for with our warehousing and logistics system Solhub,” affirmed Fernando Sánchez, Soltec’s VP of Sales LATAM. “Solhub delivers unitized tracker components packaging onsite just-in-time and prepared for minimal additional onsite material handling.”

Source: Soltec

Soltec manufactures in Argentina the main parts of its horizontal SF7 single-axis solar tracker

Soltec has obtained the Code Provider Product (CPP) accreditation as Local Manufacturer in Argentina. This code, which can be consulted in the Renewable Energy Provider Register (ReProEr), was created by Argentina’s National Industrial Technology Institute (INTI) to promote the use of renewable energy and locally manufactured goods.

Since Soltec’s establishment in Argentina, obtaining this accreditation has been a priority in the Soltec mission to help customers find success there. Local manufacturing will benefit the customer experience in supply and construction phases, and will benefit customer solidarity campaigns by measurably improving people’s lives,” says José María Celdrán, Regional General Manager for Andean Countries and the Southern Cone. “We appreciate INTI’s disposition and support throughout the whole process.

Soltec Argentina offers in-country the SF7 superior tracking solution for solar PV power plants. “Local manufacturing means that Soltec can offer shorter lead-times, and it establishes the factory-base of Soltec’s comprehensive Factory Service Plans. Argentina is serious with renewable energy objectives, and the CPP accreditation is strategic to our plans in the country for the next 12 months. It follows on our formula of global growth into the most interesting solar PV tracker markets,” said Soltec CEO Raul Morales.

Source: Soltec

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The single-axis tracker from Soltec increases production by up to 5% compared to their competitors

Some of the main issues found by energy developers include achieving greater project cost-effectiveness and forming a stable relationship with trustworthy suppliers. With this in mind, Soltec, Europe’s leading solar tracker manufacturer, has developed the SF7, a PV tracker that has broken barriers in terms of profitability. In fact, anyone who has followed Soltec’s trajectory will have seen how profitability is one of the main innovation criteria of this company.

With 14 years of experience in the development of PV energy and around 35 patents worldwide, Soltec designed its first solar tracker in 2007. Since then, the company has continued to invest in technological innovation, launching its SF7 in summer 2017. The SF7 follows on from its big brother, SF Utility, with a higher yield per hectare and even lower material and installation labour costs given that it has fewer parts.

Looking at technical details, the SF7 is the only tracker with a steep-slope tolerance of up to 17% on a north-south gradient. By comparison, its main competitor can only withstand gradients of up to 10%. The SF7 mounting supports offer the most extensive range of assembly tolerances, perfect when constructing a solar plant on uneven terrain. And because the final cost is reduced, SF7 trackers are ideal for easy access sites.

The yield of the SF7 also increases by eliminating all the array gaps, completely covering the upper part of the tracker with PV modules. As a result, the gaps between the solar panels on the piles disappear, increasing yield by up to 5% more MW per hectare.

Comparisons with our nearest competitor are inevitable. We have 46% fewer piles per MW, 15% less parts and 58% less screw connections, all of which adds up to a quicker installation. Time is also saved as the units are supplied from the Solhub, Soltec’s global factory stock logistics system. Site deliveries are combined into packages of trackers ready for distribution in the field with as little need as possible for manpower, so no intermediaries are required between our factories and the client’s plant“, comments José María Lozano, Head of Global Engineering at Soltec.

The direct consequence of a solar tracker with fewer piles is that it saves energy during installation. It also translates into less time for pile driving, lower carbon emissions and less earthworks.

SF7 is equipped with unique innovations such as the DC Harness linked to StringRunner. Such ingenious solutions to connect cables simplify the PV installation and reduce both materials and installation time. The tracker can also include the NFC system to read data and facilitate maintenance tasks via any mobile device.

SF7 is the result of years of knowledge and experience in the PV sector. This has allowed us to understand our clients’ needs in addition to applying pioneering technologies to solar tracking”, affirms Raúl Morales, CEO of Soltec. “Achieving the development of a cutting-edge product is fundamental in a market such as solar power, so R&D becomes the lynch pin of any company looking to create a niche for itself in the renewable energy market”.

This explains how the company has gone from a turnover of around US$6 million in 2012 to over US$200m in 2017, transforming a local company into one of the world’s leading suppliers of solar equipment.

Throughout last year, Soltec has signed contracts to supply its PV equipment to solar plants spread over three continents. This has resulted in the company achieving a growth rate of over 200% in 2017.

We firmly believe in the global nature of the PV market. This is why we are currently closing contracts for projects in Australia, Israel and other African countries, in addition to having opened offices in Argentina and India”, continues Morales, adding that “this internationalisation has enabled us to become a more efficient company, allowing us to create specialist teams around the world that work towards converting each of our projects into a success story“.

As a result, Soltec has positioned itself as the leading supplier in Brazil, Chile and Peru, continuing to gain market share in Mexico and the USA and expanding its market in other parts of the world, with new projects and subsidiaries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

With a production capacity of 2.5 GW per year, enabling the supply of more than 200 MW per month and over 750 workers around the world, Soltec has become the perfect partner to handle large solar power projects. This is endorsed by its over 3 GW in projects worldwide and its growth of 3,800% in the last five years, as the renewable energy company that has recorded the highest growth in Europe.

Soltec has thereby become an example of good corporate practice as well as a reference in solar power.

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