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Listen Up: What's the Deal with Solar Trackers?

In the early solar PV days, trackers were a necessity to maximize the energy output from very expensive solar modules. Unfortunately, in those days trackers were mechanically complex and unreliable (remember TV antenna rotors?), and the control systems were expensive and finicky. As solar module pricing declined, the interest in trackers for small systems began to wane.

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But developments in the mechanical design of trackers continued, clever installation techniques and system layouts were designed, and control systems benefitted from improvements in sensors, software and cheap electronics. As a result, even with solar module pricing in the $0.50-$1.00 range, PV trackers make good economic sense for large ground mount systems. These benefits are even more valuable in areas of the world with high Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), because in these areas there is not a lot of early/late cloud cover. By keeping the solar modules perpendicular to the sun early and late in the day, significantly more energy can be collected than a traditional fixed array — thereby offsetting the extra costs of the trackers. 

My guest this week is Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker. Dan started his solar career at PG&E, was on the founding team at PowerLight, and then served as the President of SunPower as they expanded in Europe. He founded NEXTracker in order to maximize PV system profits for large systems, and their unique tracker designs are getting traction with large customers. Please join me on this week's Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Dan explains the benefits of large-scale trackers, and opines about the future of the solar industry.

Find more episodes of The Energy Show here.

About The Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don't have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we'll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices. 

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He's been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Lead image: Green microphone via Shutterstock

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