Solar tracking is a fantastic way of maximizing the output and efficiency of solar harvesting equipment. They work by closely mimicking the movement of the sun across the sky such that at any given time, the panels, or any other payload is always facing the sun.
Depending on the system, the efficiency of solar tracking equipment ranges between 25 to 45 percent. Installing a solar monitoring system is easy and requires little maintenance depending on the tracker installed. Also, there are quite some trackers available that vary in size, functionality and price. Hence, you can almost certainly find a tracker to fit your needs.
Types of Solar Trackers
1. Passive Trackers
Passive trackers operate on thermal mechanisms allowing them to track the sun. The liquid, mostly Freon 12, has a low boiling point. It’s driven to one side as a result of the sun’s heat vaporizing the fluid. The movement causes hydraulic dampers in the passive tracker to move towards the direction of the sun.
Passive trackers are great in places with abundant sunlight, but they perform relatively poorly in cold and windy places for obvious reasons. In cold places, Freon won’t evaporate hence the device won’t track the sun. In windy areas, the hydraulic dampers have to work extra hard to follow the sun, and they sometimes fail.
You may already have guessed the biggest drawback with passive trackers: they don’t work that well in the winter. Additionally, it may take up to an hour to heat up the Freon 12 in the morning, so you will lose an hour’s worth of sunlight when using passive trackers. Another problem with the system is caused by its design. It can only track the sun from east to west, therefore, it cannot track the sun during the seasonal north to south path. Due to all these reasons, you have to manually adjust the tracker four to five times a day to make up for the seasonal difference.
2. Active Trackers
Active trackers are electrically operated trackers with gears and motors to guide the tracker when the controller detects a new solar direction. Since they are using high precision sensors, active trackers are quite accurate in determining the direction of the sun.
There are dual axis trackers as well as single axis trackers active trackers. The dual axis variety allows for tracking from east to east as well as from south to north during the seasonal solar path change. The photovoltaic (PV) array, the sun detection mechanism used by active trackers, is always perpendicular to the sun’s direction. Since active trackers do not rely on the sun’s heat, they operate efficiently even during winter. However, they do require the occasional maintenance run.
As you can tell by now, solar trackers are a great way of getting the most out of solar panels. Choose a tracker that best fits your needs, as well your local weather conditions. If you’re in doubt, consult a specialist to help you out.
Author’s Bio: Fred G. Anderson is as solar panel installation expert working in the greater Nevada area. He is also a strong advocate for green and reusable technology. When he is not busy writing about green energy, Fred likes to tinker around with single axistrackers.