28 September 2020

Is 2-Axis Solar Tracker the New Frontier of Solar Technology?

The movement to embrace clean energy and reduce our carbon footprint is gaining traction across the globe. At the front and center of this wave are disruptive technologies and pioneering breakthroughs.

One such innovation is the solar tracking system. According to a Fortune Business Insights report, from a market size of USD 9.30 billion in 2019, the global solar tracker market is projected to reach USD 22.33 billion by 2027.

Being one of the key global players in the solar energy space, India is going to be a significant player in this market riding on the country’s very ambitious RE target of 175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.

A solar tracker system tracks the position of the sun and moves solar panels, so they align with the sun's position to maximize the energy yield captured and boost the efficiency of the overall power generation process.

Indian Solar Tracker Market

The solar tracker market came of age in India in 2016, with installations picking up significantly in 2017 with improved commercial viability. This, coupled with a growing investor awareness and the need to maximize power output in a competitive market, also contributed to the solar tracker market's growth.

However, with a sharp fall in module prices in the last couple of years, the relatively higher installation and maintenance costs of solar trackers have put them on the back foot with the investors. They are looking for more cost-effective options to increase power output.

Therefore, to remain relevant and viable, the solar tracker companies must continually innovate to ensure maximum yield and an increase in investors’ IRR (internal rate of return).

Existing solar tracking technology

Two technologies are currently predominant in the market, Single-Axis Tracker (SAT) and Dual-Axis Tracker (DAT).

The single-axis trackers move the panels on one axis movement, aligned with north and south, allowing the panels to arc back and forth following the sun as it rises and sets.

The dual-axis trackers enable the panels to move along both horizontal and vertical axes – north-south and east-west. This maximizes the solar yield captured throughout the year.

Single-axis trackers, and within this segment, Horizontal Single Axis Trackers (HSAT), are the most used worldwide. Most solar developers prefer them as they generate the required power at optimal cost and have less complicated operations than dual-axis trackers. The dual-axis trackers are more viable for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) projects, which are much lower in number.

Challenges faced by the solar tracking industry

The higher cost of installation compared to stationary counterparts, complex fixed rack systems, and high maintenance requirements are the major factors hindering the growth of the global solar tracker market.

Furthermore, studies have proved that the single-axis tracker's performance is not constant in all seasons of the year. As the tracker only moves the modules east to west in every season, therefore, only during summer, the energy yield will be higher when the sun's radiation is falling perpendicular to the PV module and maintains a right angle of incidence. However, during winter and transition periods, when the sun changes its position, and the radiation falls on an obtuse angle, the yield falls.

The dual-axis trackers have not hit a sweet spot with the Indian market because of their massive structure and high capital cost. Even though DAT follows the sun’s path in all directions and all seasons, it costs two-three times the SAT and becomes economically unviable for most developers.

To stay profitable in the highly competitive renewable energy market, the developers are looking for solar trackers that can give them the performance of a dual-axis tracker at the cost of a single-axis tracker.

So, is the new-kid-on-the-block, the 2-Axis Solar Tracker, the solution?

A recent next-generation solution in the solar tracker market and positioned as the best of both SAT and DAT, minus their limitations, the 2-Axis Solar Tracker offers a higher yield at a much lower cost.

The 2-axis solar tracker addresses the shortcomings of the single-axis tracker design by providing continuous seasonal movement along the north-south axis, in addition to daily east-west movement, thus tracking the sun optimally at all times. It promises a more than two-fold increased yield over the single-axis tracker.

Designed and developed in collaboration with IIT, Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology), the 2-axis offers an 18-30% increase in yield over a fixed installation, increased plant safety, and better returns. Also, offering a 20+ degrees adaptability, the tracker can potentially be deployed in undulating terrains. Furthermore, its modular and decentralized design optimizes the structure weight, thus reducing the capital cost.

After undergoing rigorous quality checks and successful pilot testing, it’s ready to be launched in the Indian market.

So, will the 2-axis tracker meet the brief and become the next big wave for the solar developers to ride on? Well, only time will tell!