Solar energy is a form of energy that is more sustainable, cost-effective, and abundant compared to the traditional methods of generating energy. Because of these qualities, the world of science is doing surmountable research and exploration regarding the different ways of harnessing solar energy by employing solar tracking systems. The type of trackers you choose depends upon the nature of the land, however, there is significant evidence that shows that utilizing solar trackers proves to be more effective than its fixed contemporaries. Solar tracking systems, as the name suggests, are devices that amplify the efficiency of solar panels by offering solar tracking that is usually not part of the traditional prototypical solar counterparts.
Solar tracking systems are innovatory because instead of being immobilized and depending upon solar racks, solar trackers follow the direction of the sun throughout the day, which allow for a greater percentage of the absorption of the sun’s energy and instantly leading to its conversion into electricity. This ingenious invention of solar tracking systems is efficient but what exactly makes it so effective in tracking the sun’s radiation at a higher rate?
What makes solar trackers more efficient?
A single beam of direct sunlight carries more percentage of raw energy as compared to an indirect beam of sunlight. Even on days when the sun is out, people experience this effect the most in the afternoon instead of in the morning or evening because the sun appears to be shining directly on the surface of the Earth. The sun is consistently going through a cycle of rising and setting, which makes it impossible for any static device such as a solar panel to capture the sun’s direct energy and reap the benefits to the maximum.
Solar trackers can align themselves to allow the solar panels to angle their positions in the direction of the sun, whilst also tracking the path of the sun as it completes its rotation for the day. In some cases, the model of solar trackers is constructed on a single-axis, which is not too complex rendering it less proficient than the others. Other models of solar trackers include a dual-axis that are not so easy to maintain as well as expensive but are far more effective when it comes to tracking the sun’s light to generate more electricity than with the traditional solar panels. The general capacity of a solar tracker to generate electricity is 40 percent more efficient than regular solar panel devices.
The use of green energy is gradually becoming more popular with the increase in the interest to reduce environmental degradation. Energy is a non-negotiable component of human existence and survival but the Earth’s natural resources and the need to reduce pollution should be of equal importance to humankind. Due to the aforementioned facts, companies and industries are shifting toward developing green technologies to reduce environmental exploitation by creating more sustainable methods of producing energy.
These new-fangled ways of generating energy include solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and a couple of other renewable sources of energy which do not make the situation regarding pollution worse, but at the same time ensure that the alternative methods applied in their place are doing less harm to the Earth as compared to the conventional methods of generating energy.
Types of solar trackers
Solar tracking systems are generally classified based on four types of systems: the control system, driving system, tracking strategies, and lastly the range of freedom allowed for the movement made by the system.
1. Control system based
Closed loop tracking system
This type of system has a predetermined algorithm based on some mathematical interpretations of the sun’s trajectory installed in it. This allows the sensors to catch the sun’s rays and transmit them to the system where the microprocessor embedded in the system can regulate the signals to the motors and check for any error in the transmission. After the feedback has been actuated by the control system, the motors are activated which allows the solar panel to better target the sunlight for absorption.
Open loop tracking system
This kind of system uses the algorithm of solely the system while using a type of controller which grants the driving signal to the motor by making sense of the current data that is extracted from the current operating system. It works independently of the feature of observing and analyzing external information to produce estimated results regarding the desired output. This makes it a lot less expensive and user-friendly to employ as compared to a closed-loop one which requires a rectification process of its own.
2. Driving system based
Passive solar tracking system
This system employs the use of a type of low boiling point compressed gas fluid to orient the incoming radiations from the sun toward the solar panel. It does not depend on mechanical methods of garnering solar energy but uses alloys that act as correctors whenever an unstable input is detected, and thus compels the solar panel to reposition its angles to better establish a balance of the irradiation by igniting a type of thermal expansion in amplifying gasses. The tracker is triggered upon noticing that one side of the fluid is receiving a larger portion of light and heat energy, then the gas expands and therefore is prompted to turn to the other side of the tracker. This tracking device is convenient, albeit it lacks efficiency when it comes to operating in low temperatures.
Active solar tracking system
This kind of tracking system consists of electrical devices and all sorts of mechanical gears that help to steer the solar panels in the direction of the sun’s light and heat radiation. It primarily functions by making use of sensors and motor devices for tracking the sun’s emission and is far more superior to the previously mentioned tracking systems. However, there is a catch. To function efficiently, it requires the consumption of energy to operate, unlike its “Passive” counterpart. When the tracking system is being exposed to unbalanced radiation, it recognizes the error and thus realigns its panels to receive the optimal amount of illumination from the sun.
3. Based on degree of freedom of movement
Single tracking solar axis system
This tracking system is built upon a single axis which means that it can only rotate to align the solar panel which is perpendicular to the direction of the sun’s illumination. For this type of system, the most favorable direction happens to be next to the north meridian axis. This allows the efficiency of a single-axis solar tracking system to surpass that of a regular stationary solar panel because it can produce 32.2% more energy than the former.
LoriSense Basic – Single Axis Solar Tracker
LoriSense Basic is a single axis solar tracker that could delivery these kinds of results. See more details at: www.lorisense.com
Double axis solar tracking system
This type of system is similar to a single axis one but can increase the efficiency of a regular panel by 15%-17% as compared to its single-axis contemporary. It consists of two axes that lie perpendicular to each other.
4. Tracking strategies based
Date and time
This system shows a stark resemblance to the closed-loop tracking system mentioned at the beginning of the article. It also makes judgments regarding the sun’s trajectory based on predefined mathematical algorithms. However, in this case, there is no need for feedback loops or sensors.
Microprocessors and optical sensors
This type of system relies on the presence of sensors to detect the position of the sun in the sky. And after detecting the position of the sun, the information is relayed to the microprocessor which then signals the motors to move in the direction of the sun.
Sensors, date, and time
This tracking system relies on a predetermined algorithm but also requires the help of the sensors to make sure the solar tracker is working smoothly. For verifying the sun’s position in the sky, this tracker uses a double hybrid solar tracking device. This includes the tracking system, the open-loop which monitors the sun’s movements throughout the day, and the closed-loop which relays the signals according to the amount of the output generated by the sensors.
There is a multitude of solar tracking devices, such as single-axis and dual-axis trackers, which allow for various options according to the size, local weather, landscape, degree of latitude, and electrical installations of the place where the panels are situated or will be installed. All these factors help in determining the kind of solar installation that would cater to the needs mentioned previously. With the development of more sustainable methods of producing energy, solar trackers prove to be a very reliable and environmentally friendly way of harnessing energy.
- Bentaher, H., Kaich, H., Ayadi, N., Hmouda, M. B., Maalej, A., & Lemmer, U. (2014). A simple tracking system to monitor solar PV panels. Energy conversion and management, 78, 872-875.
- Rizk, J. C. A. Y., & Chaiko, Y. (2008). Solar tracking system: more efficient use of solar panels. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 41, 313-315.
- McHale, M. (2015, October 15). Maureen McHale. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from https://solarflexrack.com/how-efficient-are-solar-trackers-2/
- Spw, Spw, Says, K., Krishna, Says, Q., Mart, Q. . . . Melton, S. (2020, January 22). Advantages and disadvantages of a sun tracker system