Do Solar Trackers Make Sense for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Solar Projects?

As Commercial and Industrial (C&I) solar projects continue to grow in size and scope, driven by aggressive corporate sustainability initiatives, the declining cost of solar power, and robust government tax incentives, C&I solar projects that were limited to a few kilowatts (KW) or even a few hundred KW, with commercial PV systems, are now regularly exceeding one megawatt (MW). This growth in project size now has more developers and Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms, especially those in the multi-megawatt club or seeking to join its ranks, factoring in the potential of solar trackers for ground-mounted C&I system designs. 


Since few, if any, commercial or industrial sites are identical, C&I solar projects come in all shapes and sizes. This diversity also means that it won’t be readily apparent whether installing solar trackers will increase production enough to make them a cost-effective investment for corporate solar customers.


Skeptics of trackers will have a laundry list of reasons to cite: higher initial capital expenses (CAPEX) for materials, components, and labor; a more complicated and prolonged procurement process; and a greater risk for mechanical failure with a corresponding increase in operations & maintenance (O&M) costs. When it comes to conventional solar trackers, these skeptics might have a point.


However, innovative new tracker features, a smart tracking control platform, and a partner offering a total solar solution with one-stop shopping can streamline procurement, speed up install times, reduce mechanical failure risks, and significantly boost power generation. Below, we dive into how new solar tracker technology and solutions can offset the added costs to deliver a lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), a faster return on investment (ROI), and more C&I solar customer value.


Overcoming the Disadvantages of Conventional Solar Trackers


Solar tracking systems cost more money than standard fixed solar panel systems for several reasons. 


The first reason is the need for more raw materials, from steel to cables to electronics. Next, since the install timelines are much longer with more tasks to complete than a fixed-tilt array, additional labor is required to prepare a site for trackers and drive piles.


Compared to a fixed solar panel array with no moving parts, solar trackers are specifically designed to move to allow modules to follow the sun throughout the day and year. This mechanical complexity contributes to the third component of increased cost for solar tracking systems: O&M. A more complex system has a greater chance for failure and will need more O&M, leading to higher costs over the project’s lifespan.


TrinaTracker was designed to specifically tackle these disadvantages of conventional solar trackers. First, TrinaTracker uses a patented spherical bearing design with up to 30% angle adjustability to alleviate the damage caused by uneven foundation settlement during operations. The spherical bearings also dissipate the extra stress caused by the deformation of the tracker system to the load and failure component.


Compared to conventional solar trackers, TrinaTracker is much easier to install, which speeds up installations for fewer man-hours per megawatt, and it significantly reduces mechanical failure risks for lower long-term O&M costs. 


The Importance of Optimization with Smart Tracker Control System


For commercial installations with limited roof space but higher power output and lots of ground space, even the increased efficiency and power gains provided by a conventional solar tracker may not be enough to offset the initial and long-term costs. 


But with a tracker and control platform using sophisticated software and advanced algorithms, EPCs and developers can design a PV system with higher energy generation to not only make trackers a wise choice, but potentially make a C&I solar project viable in the first place.


For example, TrinaTracker’s SuperTrack Smart Tracker System increases energy generation by up to 3-8% compared with conventional tracking control systems. Further, in addition to its innovative spherical bearing that reduces the risk of mechanical failure, SuperTrack’s TrinaCloud provides remote monitoring and cluster control software for smarter O&M that improves efficiency and lowers costs.


Streamline Procurement with a Total Solar Solution and One-Stop Shopping


EPCs and developers must optimize PV system modeling and site design to leverage these components effectively. There’s a reason some skeptics claim the increased costs associated with conventional solar trackers don’t outweigh the benefits. Whether encountering a convoluted procurement process, a subpar site design, component interoperability, or a non-optimized system, any minor hiccup can create a scenario where the power gains don’t offset the higher costs.


Thankfully, TrinaPro C&I Solutions with TrinaTracker provides the experience and expertise to optimize C&I solar projects for the best possible value. TrinaTracker has widespread compatibility with most major PV modules. Unlike other module original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Trina Solar is the only module OEM that also makes a reliable, high-quality solar tracker. When bundled with the high efficiency and higher power gains achieved from bifacial Vertex N modules, C&I solar EPCs and developers receive a total solar solution from a fully bankable partner for even lower LCOE.

Interested in making solar tracker installs faster and easier, streamlining procurement, ensuring optimized system design, and lowering long-term O&M costs for C&I solar projects? Reach out to Trina Solar US today to learn more.

Relevant Topics

Smart Energy Solutions

delivered straight to your inbox