Industry Analysis

Tracking the Sun

How solar trackers can help in maximising solar plant efficiency.

Solar panel tracking solutions are an advanced technology that are used to orient photovoltaic panels, reflectors, lenses or other optical devices toward the Sun thereby maximising solar plants’ efficiency. As the large-scale solar power industry continues to mature in India, there is the significant demand for smart tracking systems.

According to Varun Sachar, Managing Director, Asun Trackers Pvt Ltd, “With the exponential increase in investments in solar energy in the country, the days of early mover advantage are gone. The market is getting competitive, falling PPA tariffs and IRRs are some of the early signs. Every incremental increase in output is going to count and solar trackers have the potential to change the game significantly. In any case, constant improvement in efficiency and returns is natural evolution in life-cycle of any products. In case of solar energy trackers will herald that evolution.”

He also observes that the myth that this technology is not required in geography like India can be put to rest. In fact it works best in little or no snow conditions, he assures.

Shailesh Vaidya, CEO, Scorpius Trackers Pvt Ltd claims that the solar tracker segment is one of the most promising technologies that reduce dependencies on import with the entire Scorpius Trackers technology being India’s only indigenous product with global bankability validation from Black and Veatch.

Explaining the advantages of solar panel tracking solutions, Vaidya says, “The benefits of the technology are such that projects can generate almost 15-25 per cent extra on a similar configuration thus reducing the need for costly imports of panels which is a drain on the economy as well as a foreign exchange deficit hazard. Generation is spaced out evenly throughout the day whereas standard fixed tilt only generates max power for 2-4 hours which is a huge concern for DISCOMs.”

Having tried and evaluated various tracking systems available in the market, Sachar realised that merely managing the daily east to west movement of the panels (single axis systems) was not effective enough. He said, “The net increase in yield was only 15-18 per cent. In a pure cost benefit play in the Indian market this was not very competitive. In one of our test locations the yields were actually lower than fixed panel mounts. This was due to the seasonal north-south shift in the path of the Sun. On the face of it dual axis systems did the job best, but the costs were prohibitive, not to mention the attendant maintenance complexities.”

Solar Tracker Technology
According to Vaidya, Scorpius Trackers is India’s largest suppliers of single axis solar PV trackers with over 250 MW of trackers supplied in India, Japan, Africa and USA and have already signed exclusive supply MOUs with large independent project developers in India for 875 MW and is confident of delivering between 700 MW to 1,000 MW in FY 2017-18.

“We are the only Indian tracker technology that has completed an Atmospheric Boundary Layer. Wind tunnel study at a world renowned facility in the USA and our trackers have undergone an extremely thorough independent engineer’s bankability review from Black and Veatch,” claims Vaidya.
Some of the unique and cutting edge features of Scorpius Trackers are:

  • Developed completely in-house with Indian patent received, with global patent filed
  • Most competitive and bankable tracker technology
  • Aggressive supply chain with localised supply, installation, erection and O&M support
  • Standalone tracker technology – No cabling for power and communication
  • Many worlds’ first features like lightening detection, which is a precursor to a storm
  • No maintenance bearings which do not have to be cleaned or lubricated for more than 25 years. No O&M cost for bearings.
  • Vaidya also adds, “We believe that our product adds significant value to project installations by boosting energy generation while requiring ‘zero’ additional maintenance costs for the bearings, which is the moving part.”

    Sachar informs, “It was then we embarked upon designing a new system altogether with the help of IIT, Delhi. The design breakthrough of this tracking system retains the economy of single axis movement mechanism, yet allowing the management of the seasonal north-south shift. New Asun Tracker is designed to give you 25-30 per cent increase in output. So what you get is near dual axis performance at a near single axis price.”

    NEXTracker, a Flex company, recently announced that it has sold over 1 GW of solar trackers to utility-scale power plants in India.

    “We are appreciative to be partnering on over 1 GW of solar power plants with many of India’s leading renewable energy firms,” stated NEXTracker CEO Dan Shugar. “We have designed the most flexible single-axis tracker to fit a wide range of project attributes in India such as property shape and size, terrain profile, voltage, and wind speed. We have significantly invested and grown our Hyderabad team, and have adapted our product for local conditions, supporting dozens of projects that are under present construction.”

    NEXTracker’s projects commissioned or under construction with Sterling & Wilson, Adani Green Energy, SkyPower, CleanMax Solar, Suzlon, and ReNew Power are milestones that demonstrate the rapidly growing adoption of solar trackers in India.

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