All You Need to Know About Solar Trackers

Solar Trust Centre Team
Solar Trust Centre Team
August 26, 2021

Solar power is having a remarkable rise in popularity in Australia, and across the world. Locally, the past few years has seen immense demand for solar, and it’s set to continue. But as a result of this surging growth, sometimes certain aspects of solar’s story can be a little overlooked. This is because – while electric solar power technology can trace its earliest origins back to French scientist Edmond Becquerel in the 1830s! – the tech that’s in mass use today remains relatively young, with immense room for further optimisation.

Accordingly, it’s always worthwhile to detail and discuss the new innovations that are either out now or set to become a major asset within the industry in the near future. Solar trackers are a key example of this. They are in use today, and their greater uptake in future could come to be a watershed moment for Australia’s solar sector, and the nation overall. So let’s look now at all you should know about solar trackers.

What Are Solar Trackers Exactly?

Solar trackers provide solar panels with the ability to change their positioning across the day. This capacity to adjust the direction they face offers an advantage over conventional – AKA fixed – solar panels. This is because, in comparison to a conventional installation, solar panels with tracking equipment can rotate to find a more optimal facing to harvest the sun’s light.

How Do Solar Trackers Work?

There are various types of solar trackers out there and they each perform a little differently. A manual solar tracker will require a person to adjust it to obtain the optimal position of the panels throughout the day. A passive solar tracker utilises a liquid-based system that tilts the panels throughout the day. Then there are active solar trackers, which make use of hydraulic cylinders or motors to adjust positioning.

There’s also a subset of solar trackers, single axis and dual axis trackers. These differ in performance based upon which direction they can move in. As the name implies, single axis rotates in one direction, whereas dual axis has greater freedom of movement to reach the ideal facing.

Where Are Solar Trackers Used?

Because of their higher cost relative to some other solar components, solar trackers are most likely to be found in sophisticated solar installations. Those where the additional expense can be easily justifiable due to the scale of the system and its light-harvesting capabilities. Solar farms for instance can be great candidates for solar trackers. This said, they can also find use on smaller-scale installations, it’s just a question of whether the buyer has a budget that will allow for solar trackers.

While tracking equipment will add to the upfront cost of a system in comparison to one without it, a system with solar tracking can harvest more light. If a system is in use in a community with a good feed-in tariff (FIT) it could also mean a significant increase in earnings from the FIT. Ultimately, a key factor here is the average annual sunshine in the area the system will operate in. Homes in regions with comparatively low annual sunshine may not notice a significant difference in harvested light when using tracking equipment, just as homes in regions with high annual sunshine should. 

Keeping Track of Progress

All things being equal, it’s doubtful we’ll suddenly see a massive increase in solar trackers on Aussie homes in the next couple of years. Yes, there shall be some solar enthusiasts keen to chase down such a goal, and that’s great! But for a typical Aussie household looking to insert a solar system on their roof, it’s unlikely decisive feelings will exist in the home about what solar setup will be perfect for them. Accordingly, a great many will find following further research and enquiries that – while they’re fantastic – solar trackers will be more costly and more complicated to pursue than simply opting for more panels, and ensuring the panels they get are quality ones.

Nonetheless, it’s true we can never anticipate what terrific innovation is just around the corner. In turn, given the cost of solar energy continues to drop – with a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency finding it dropped a massive 82% from 2010 to 2019 alone – there’s little doubt that as solar becomes even more affordable and popular, substantial new investment will follow which enhances the capability and affordability of existing components. 

An Amazing Decade Ahead for Solar Tech

The 2020s are set to be tremendously exciting for the solar industry. This is the decade where we’re set to see the already common sight of solar installations on rooftops joined by the rapid increase of solar’s use in other ways. Whether it’s a solar car seen on our roads, a solar boat seen throughout our waterways, or a variety of other exciting new concepts like solar roads. 

Much of this tech is still in development. Even where versions of it exist that are good to go, the cost of it may currently remain too high to be a mass-use product. Solar trackers can fall into this category, as very desirable but not yet affordable for many of us. But as the story of solar over the past decade shows, the cost of solar energy and its components continue to reduce. So even if not quite on the scene tomorrow, we can certainly expect solar trackers to become a more common sight going forward in Australia and abroad.

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