Until now, the rooftop market has not been able to take advantage of trackers previously because of weight, size, mounting, and wind issues. Edisun’s patented PV Booster is a dual-axis tracker that rotates around a 46-inch stainless steel circumferential ring for directional adjustment and pivots off a bottom hinge for inclination adjustment. It maintains a low profile, rising only a few inches above the rooftop and is sheltered largely by a building’s parapet walls, notes Bill Gross, the founder and CEO of the company.
Gross estimates that 36 percent of the commercial and industrial rooftops in the United States could support the PV Booster. One recent analyst report suggested that C&I solar will grow to a $4 trillion business by 2040, surpassing the utility and residential solar markets.
At 35 pounds per unit, the tracker places only two pounds of weight per square foot on the roof surface. The tracker also uses brushless motors, reducing the overall cost. And wind tunnel tests at Cal Tech showed the tracker can withstand winds of up to 160 mph. 250 units have been under test for the past year, and commercial production is expected to begin during 2017.
By continuously facing solar modules toward the sun, PV Booster increases the energy production by 30 percent versus conventional fixed-tilt installations. However, the cost of the tracker is only 10 percent higher than fixed tilt, says Gross. This significantly enhanced performance decreases installation payback by as much as two years and increases Internal Rate of Return by two points. Additionally, Levelized Cost of Energy may be lowered by $0.02 per kWh.
PV Booster also provides unique value to utility customers that are subject to escalating time-of-day grid pricing. The tracker captures more energy on the shoulders of the day when time-of-use rates are the highest. Those gains reduce time-of-use charges (peak), allowing those customers to achieve even stronger financial returns.
“Although solar costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, rooftop tracking installations have remained both logistically and economically unrealistic for commercial facilities – until now,” says Gross. “PV Booster is the first technology to bring the proven economic benefits of solar trackers from the ground to the rooftop, enhancing returns as well as opening the market to a large and underserved customer base.”