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solar tracker

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Soltec, leading manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers, has released part three of its white paper that sets out the results obtained from September 2018 to June 2019 at its Bifacial Tracker Evaluation Center (BiTEC) in Livermore, California.

BiTEC studied the bifacial gain of PV modules deployed in the two most widely-used solar tracker configurations in the market today: one-in-portrait (1P) and two-in portrait (2P). The results obtained confirm that Soltec’s SF7 bifacial tracker in 2P configuration achieves a bifacial gain 2.1% higher than trackers in 1P configuration.

The white paper also shows that bifacial modules mounted on SF7 solar trackers provide 16.2% more bifacial gain under high albedo conditions (around 58%) and 10.1% under medium albedo conditions (29%).

BiTEC analysed and evaluated different parameters over a period of nine months, enabling it to achieve maximum performance in any PV installation, as well as improving tracker design. The factors evaluated included ground conditions, tracker height, the distance between trackers and module temperature.

Soltec has now released the third part of its White Paper with the results of the last nine months obtained by BiTEC. In this report, BiTEC placed particular emphasis on the importance of albedo to achieve more satisfactory results in energy production, as well as the different ways of measuring it and the instruments required to measure PV plants. As a result, the analysis was able to demonstrate which soils are better for achieving the optimal performance of such installations.

Under seasonal albedo conditions (when the soil is left to lie fallow over each season), the measurements show that the albedo remains stable at around 19% until the rainy season in California, in late November 2018. From then on, grass growth reduced this value to 17.2%. Once the grass was cut in March, the seasonal albedo value increased again, reaching a value of 19.6%. All this data resulted in an overall seasonal albedo of 18.9% over the nine-month measurement period.

Bifacial technology is revolutionising the PV market and involves changes in the design and behaviour of the bifacial trackers. The full analysis of these factors can be seen in part three of Soltec’s White Paper.

Acciona has created a hub in its El Romero Solar plant (Atacama, Chile) to test new photovoltaic technologies that will improve the efficiency and performance of solar energy facilities.
The hub will focus on the mechanical and energy capacity of double-sided crystalline, split-cell and thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) technologies, all of them in the development phase, with the intention of shaping PV energy’s evolution. The solar modules have been produced by JA Solar and First Solar, and a variety of solar trackers will be used, manufactured by STI Nordland and Soltec.

The innovation center, in which two of the three tracker zones have already been installed, will have a power generation facility with a total capacity of 492 kWp (180 kW rated) consisting of 1,280 modules in three series of trackers connected to nine inverters. These will be assisted by other equipment to measure and monitor parameters such as incident and reflected solar radiation, ambient temperature or the production temperature of each kind of module, among others.

Unlike conventional solar modules, which only have photovoltaic cells on one side, the double-sided modules have cells on both sides of the panel to capture reflected solar radiation and increase output per surface unit occupied.

In split-cell modules each cell is divided into two parts. This reduces energy losses and improves the durability of the panel.

Finally, the thin-film modules are made from semi-conductive materials as alternatives to conventional crystalline silicon –such as cadmium telluride- that reduce both manufacturing costs and their carbon footprint during their working life.

Advanced technologies

Advanced technologies in photovoltaic solar are one of the main strategic approaches that guide Acciona’s innovation activities in the field of clean energies. One of the most innovative projects to date is the hybridization of organic photovoltaic panels in a wind turbine tower to power a turbine in the Breña wind farm (Albacete, Spain).

El Romero Solar is one of the biggest photovoltaic plants owned and operated by Acciona, with a capacity of 246 MWp. Located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, an area with some of the highest levels of solar radiation in the world, it produces energy equivalent to the consumption of around 240,000 Chilean households. Part of its capacity will be used to supply Google’s data center in the country.

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Nclave has designed a new single axis tracker with two rows designed to mitigate the dynamic and aero-elastic risks inherent in large trackers. With this new solar tracker the company has the largest portfolio of products in the photovoltaic industry: single axis tracker mono-row SP160 and single axis tracker multi-row SP1000, fixed structure and the new twin tracker SP240.

One of the main advantages of this tracker is the allowance to a better optimization of the ground (GCR) since it enables more power installation on a smaller surface. It should be noted its great adaptability when installed on terrains with high/changing slopes.

Its configuration in two rows eases the access for maintenance and cleaning works which lets it endorse both the advantages of multi-row and mono-row trackers. All this grants savings in installation, operation and maintenance costs; decrease of commercial components by more than 25% / Mw and a reduction in assembly time of up to 65% / Mw compared with competitors.

With more than 15 years of experience, 3.5 GW deployed and offices and production centers in five continents, Nclave, is a leading company in the development, design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of fixed tilt structures and solar trackers, including the design and execution of any foundation solution. Nclave offers solutions with the lowest installation costs on the one hand, and, during the life of the project, operation and maintenance.

Source: Nclave

Soltec, leading manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers, is supplying and installing its Soltec SF7 Bifacial trackers at a 220 MW project that the Enel Group’s renewable company Enel Green Power is building in Tlaxcala, Mexico. The PV plant occupies 439 hectares. The installation includes 6,533 Soltec SF7 Bifacial solar trackers and 548,772 bifacial modules and will be able to generate around 600 GWh when at full capacity.

With this project we continue to strengthen our position in the Mexican photovoltaic market, where we have more than 1.3 GW installed. In addition, being a plant with bifacial modules, we will produce more energy optimizing the space and decreasing the installation time”, explains Sergio Prado, Head of Sales in Mexico.

Soltec will be responsible for creating 200 of jobs during the installation and supply stage. Soltec and Enel Green Power are cooperating with trade unions and the local government to promote local employment.

The company has also participated in an initiative to donate wood to local communities near the project. During the installation, an average of three tons of wood are generated per day, which will be delivered according to the needs of each town.

SF7 Bifacial

The SF7 Bifacial solar tracker produces energy both on its front and rear side, as it captures sunlight reflected on the ground. According to BiTEC, bifacial modules mounted in SF7 Bifacial solar trackers provide 17% more Bifacial Gain under high albedo conditions (60%), and 11% under medium albedo conditions (30%).The use of this tracker in this solar plant will help to significantly increase production and reduce, in this way, the space occupied and the investment of the project.

The standard features of SF7 provide bifacial compatibility thanks to the higher mounting height, the shadow-free rear and wider aisles between the rows of trackers.

Source: Soltec

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.

More info

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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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