By Alain Poivet
Solar tracking systems have been around for a while. They are used almost exclusively on ground mounts.
The biggest benefit of a solar tracking system is that it offers a significant boost in electricity production. Generally, a solar panel system with a single-axis solar tracker sees a performance gain of 25 to 35 percent, and result in using fewer panels. Thanks to a relative newcomer on the solar scene, these benefits are no longer limited to ground mounts.
Developers have long awaited sun-tracking carports. Now they're here, on the market, proven, and available. They can also offer investors a better value than they would get with fixed carports.
When developers struggle for space on a client's site, when they struggle for more power, when roofs are not an option, or when time is an issue, sun-tracking carports may be the solution. Their energy density is up to 40 percent higher (+20-30 percent in more real-world cases). These carports exist in various sizes, including a mega size (as shown above).
In many cases, sun-tracking carports will produce more energy and give the designer more layout options. Their efficiency reaches its maximum with a North South azimuth, but they remain superior to fixed system at almost every azimuth. Higher density also means less burden, fewer foundations, trenches, tree removals, paving upgrades, lighting upgrades, fewer panels, inverters, wiring, combiner boxes, etc. The result? More energy. Developers find the KWh cost to be significantly lower than with traditional systems.
Compared to ground mounts, where trackers may add significant expense and maintenance costs, sun-tracking carports do not require more maintenance than standard carports. Additionally, the tracker system is not as heavy and complex as those used for ground mounts. Yet their performance is reliable and they are easily maintained. Sun tracking carports are modular: a large site can be equipped with any number of back-to-back units, making the designer's job much easier. Each unit is autonomous and independently controlled, which means the network is extremely resilient: a temporary default of one of the units doesn't reduce the other units' operation. Independently configured, they can separately deal with trees, shading, and other obstacles.
Sun-tracking carports are also extremely versatile; they are available for use with regular or bifacial panels (which add additional energy production), can be simple or waterproof, and come with monitoring and surveillance options. Adding lights is also an easy option.
Sun-tracking carports are easy to clean as they can be tilted for easier access. When it snows, the tilting mechanism also allows for dumping excess snow in order to quickly resume production, a much safer option to climbing or scraping snow from standard carports.
This cutting-edge technology also allows for incredibly fast installation: to install a sun tracking carport, the client's site is only mobilized 2 days (1 + 1) a few weeks apart. Occupying a client site for a couple of days instead of weeks makes a big difference for schools, hotels, and other busy business sites - and makes a huge financial difference for both the host and the contractor (due to much shorter labor and site occupancy costs). All of these factors means that many more sites can be eligible for energy producing solar shading.
Sun-tracking carports are the perfect complement and energy producer for electric vehicle battery charging stations. As we move to replacing fleets and consumer cars with electric vehicles, it makes sense for the growing number of charging stations slated for cities, malls, and along interstate highways, to be powered with clean energy from the sun. Not only will this relieve the stress on the existing grids, utilizing sun-tracking carports to feed charging systems and batteries makes sense from a climate change perspective. They provide energy, shading, and they are esthetically pleasing. A new version with extra clearance now serves semi-truck charging stations.
For efficiency and effectiveness, sun-tracking carports can make a lot of sense.
Alain Poivet is CEO of Scarlet Solar, which manufactures sun-tracking tilting solar carports.