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What is a solar tracker and how does it work?

The solar regulator, also called a tracker, is a motorized arm attached to the solar panels that allows the photovoltaic panels to follow the sun throughout the day , like the movement of sunflowers. Throughout the day, the arm rotates to capture as much sunlight as possible.

What is a solar tracker and how does it work?

The main objective of these trackers is relatively simple: to improve the performance of the photovoltaic installation to increase energy production. This system depends on the orientation and inclination of the panels and through the use of a solar tracker, these two elements are optimized throughout the day.

1.- Trackers with 1 and 2 axes

In today’s market, you can mainly find two types of system: 1-axis trackers and 2-axis trackers . The first of them follows the course of the sun from east to west. Therefore, it optimizes the orientation of the panels throughout the day. On the other hand, the two-axis tracker takes into account the incidence of the sun’s rays by modifying the height of the panels as well as their orientation.

The programming of the solar trackers takes into account the time of day, the season of the year and the latitude in which the solar installation is located. Additionally, they can use a servo system to always reduce the difference between the maximum insolation and the insolation perceived by the panels based on a “solar probe” and a calculation system.

2- Advantages and disadvantages of solar trackers

2.1.- Advantages

  • They are excellent optimizers of the energy produced and their use allows:
  • Obtaining better performance in a photovoltaic installation : with a 1-axis solar tracker, the efficiency increases between 25% and 30% compared to a classic south-facing installation. For 2-axis trackers, the system efficiency increases to 40%.
  • They can be used with photovoltaic panels and with thermal solar panels .
  • It is energy efficient .
  • It is an independent structure , therefore, it does not require planning and work inside the home. The application for a building permit is also not mandatory.

2.2.- Disadvantages

On the other hand, we find the drawbacks of using solar trackers. Despite all the benefits of solar trackers, there are some important limitations to their use:

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  • Its cost is high compared to conventional installations .
  • They require periodic and constant maintenance.
  • They must imperatively be placed parallel to the ground when the wind is strong .
  • Mechanical systems rarely achieve a useful life of 20 years.

Although at first this is logical, it should also be noted that solar trackers are not placed on the roofs of houses. Therefore, if you want to place a solar tracker, it is necessary to have enough space on the ground to place it.

On the other hand, regarding the price of solar trackers, the price varies depending on the quality of the material and the size of the solar tracker, although it usually costs between €6,000 and €15,000. This cost is amortized over the years and if the installations can even be amortized in a short period of time.

Therefore, as a general rule, the investment in such equipment is significant and in most cases it will pay off after several years of use. The high price of solar trackers explains why it is still quite rare to find them in private homes.

Today, where more use is made of solar trackers is usually in large solar plants and in the agricultural world. In fact, in large farms, the energy requirements are usually high and the spaces can allow the installation of several solar trackers, whose initial investment is amortized in a few years.

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