Solar Panel Tracking Systems

Tracking systems are designed to orient your solar panels toward the Sun. They will add an extra level of performance to your solar power system, for a little bit of expense and complexity.

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.

When analyzing solar energy data, one can quickly see the advantage of a tracking system. We studied the State of Montana and found that summer time increases of 50% can be obtained. Spring and Fall months showed strong gains possible at 25% to 30%. Winter months showed an improvement of approximately 15%. The exact value of these numbers will depend on the type of system used and the installed location.

One of the first tracking units one might consider is a manually adjustable one axis system. With a simple adjustment, the solar panels can be rotated on their horizontal axis to any angle. Each season will have an optimal tilt angle for maximizing the Sun. By adjusting our solar panels to that angle, we experienced summertime gains of 25% compared to a fixed solar panel installation. In the winter months this improvement was ~15%.

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.

The highest upgrade with solar power tracking is an actively controlled two axis system. The solar panels will rotate on their horizontal and vertical axes, which gives us two modes of adjustability. The cost and complexity of a two axis system makes them more of a specialty, but they are the most accurate units available for tracking 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.

When it comes to using solar panels to generate electricity, a two axis system is not the way to go. They will yield a very modest 5% gain over an actively tracking one axis system. For the cost and simplicity, we recommend a manually adjustable or actively tracking one axis system.

The primary applications for solar power are with generating heat and electricity. A solar power tracking system is useful in either case. The more energy we receive, the more heat and electricity we can manufacture. It’s that simple.

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.

multiple solar panel mount

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John V January 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

I confirmed the link in my email, but no download or report on how to size my system.

If there is no report, please remove me from your contact list.

thanks

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