Tracking systems increase the radiation received by a solar power system. This additional radiation turns into increased generation. Anybody who wants to maximize output from their solar panels should consider a tracking system.
The Sun changes daily, monthly, and seasonally the way it carves its path across the sky. Therefore the angle of beam radiation is constantly changing. The solar panels should be oriented perpendicular to the Sun at all times to best receive this radiation. A solar power tracking systems helps us achieve this.
The amount of energy gained will depend on your location and the type of tracking system used. We looked up the solar energy tables for the state of Washington, and the difference between a fixed solar panel system and one with tracking was ~40% more in the summer months. The spring months showed a 25% increase, and winter about 10%.
The simplest type of tracking is a manually adjustable one axis system. The solar panels are installed in a south facing direction, with a rotating mechanism on their horizontal axis. One can make seasonal adjustments to maintain the best operating angle for that time of year. A simple system such as this can gain 20% better performance when compared to a fixed solar panel installation. The Rotek design we use is an example of one such system.
Automatic (active) one axis tracking systems are also available. They are self-adjusting units that rotate daily with the arc of the Sun. Performance gains are 40% or more in the summer months, which commands serious consideration. There is the added complexity of the electronic and mechanical control mechanisms, but this cost can be offset by their superior performance.
Two axis tracking systems are the most complex and most accurate installations available. With these systems, your solar panels have additional flexibility on their vertical axis (East to West). These systems are the most exact when it comes to following the Sun.
Two axis tracking is used with systems requiring high temperatures on the receiving unit. Usually these are systems with solar collectors designed for beam magnification. The most dominant applications for solar concentrators are currently thermal generating stations and stirling engines.
Two axis tracking is not ideal with photovoltaic solar panels. In reviewing the energy tables, a two axis tracker will gain only 5% more energy over the one axis system. The greatest gains are realized, then, with the one axis system. For the cost, complexity, and convenience most users are better off with a one axis system.
There are two general functions in mind when designing for solar energy. These functions are solar power electricity, and thermal storage or heating. No matter what the design purpose is, a good tracking system is an easy way to boost performance from your solar power system.
If you are serious about maximizing your solar power system, then you should be considering a tracking system. One axis systems are available that are effective, inexpensive, and easy to use. Two axis systems are more complex and normally used for high temperature systems. Either which way, a good tracking system will go a long way in getting the most out of your solar panels.
Originally posted 2009-07-19 03:11:24.