Eco-Living Magazine

SOLAR ENERGY 101: Solar Trackers Part III - the Technology in Detail

Posted on the 14 December 2012 by Derick Ajumni
Part II of this series concluded with a bang as we noted that dual axis trackers increase an installed system's energy output by 35 to 40% depending on how the design is engineered. This third installment of the saga will touch briefly on the tracking technology and conclude by providing some feedback on this type of solar installation. There are mainly three types of tracking technologies based on the system design and engineering: azimuth tracking, altitude/elevation tracking and our now famous dual axis tracking.

SOLAR ENERGY 101: Solar Trackers Part III - the technology in detail

Image source: Electropedia

Azimuth tracking ensures that the panels mounted on its mechanism point towards the sun at all times as the earth rotates. This mode of tracking brings in the most bang for the buck as it tracks the sun through the sky east to west. The awesome way engineers play with this mode is by installing it passively, meaning it doesn't use motors, or any technical equipment but function by relying solely on the differential heating of gaseous refrigerants in tubes on either sides of the panels (collectors). It doesn't use any of the power the system produces - just differential heating and cooling (let me know if you need more explanation on how this works in the comment below).
Altitude/Elevation tracking works differently as the mechanism follows the sun's seasonal altitude in the sky each season. It is less financially beneficial than azimuth tracking because seasonal change as we know is very slow process. It would save you money to skip this mode of installation and manually tilt or rotate your system to the right altitude direction every two months.
Dual Axis tracking combines both the azimuth and altitude tracking mechanisms in one installation. This ensures the highest gains and most exposure to sunlight a tracker can provide. But again the more complicated the design the higher the price tag.
As recap, solar trackers are mechanized systems included in commercial (or in some cases residential installations) to increase sunlight exposure reaching the panels. It is highly recommended to think of installing one of these only in commercial installs were the financial benefits make sense. As earlier stated, increasing the complexity of any process only increases the possibilities to encounter failure in the system - which is a major characteristic pit fall with innovation. We will conclude the series in our next article by discussing the pros and cons of the technology, and it has been welcomes by the solar market.

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By Ruben Vileyn
posted on 31 December at 14:32

Is it possible to get more information about the azimut tracker?