Solar powered single-axis trackers and the algorithms that love them

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Single-axis trackers run the utility scale solar power world, without a doubt. In 2015, we saw 53% of the U.S. utility scale solar plant market using single-axis trackers, in 2016 that number increased to 79% of power plants. And really, most any of the large projects (this one, or this one, or some of these) we cover here on pv magazine seem to be mounted on single-axis trackers.

In a recent interview with pv magazine, RPCS founder & President Eb Russell said, “utility and distributed utility—will move toward trackers, and that fixed-tilt will become almost negligible in its market share.” With 20 GW of single axis trackers possibly being installed globally in 2018, and manufacturers buying competition to up their system output – expect single-axis tracker attention to increase.

With that, Array Technologies is announcing its latest software optimizations to its existing HZ v3 solar tracker platform. The update is titled SmarTrack and is a suite of self-learning algorithms that work independently of each other to optimize the energy output of the PV system.

The technology offers optimizations in three specific areas:

  • Backtracking: Undulating or hillside sites can introduce shading of modules in the late or early morning hours. SmarTrack monitors power production of the as-built project and alleviates the effects of shading by backtracking to optimal production angles.
  • Diffuse Light: Diffuse light conditions caused by cloud cover can rob PV plants of output. SmarTrack utilizes site production data and weather information to adjust the angle of the solar modules, providing optimal yield until the cloud cover disperses.
  • Bifacial & Split-cell:Bifacial tracking promises significantly higher power yields from backside gain. PV plants equipped with SmarTrack will utilize custom algorithms to maximize energy harvest for split-cell bi-facial and mono-facial module configurations.

In the largest projects in the solar power industry, its single axis trackers running the show. And now that we’re signing contracts that go out decades – with the hope of re-powering some of these sites for further decades – every optimization matters.