Full Title: Tracking Your Solar Investment: Best Practices for Solar Tracker O&M
Author(s): Martin Rogers & Rue Phillips
Publication Date: March 1, 2017
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More solar energy systems were installed worldwide in 2016 than any year to date, and the vast majority of this capacity was ground-mount, utility-scale—a trend that is expected to continue for several years. As the solar market matures, developers and system owners are realizing that in the long term, operations and maintenance (O&M) issues can have a profound effect on a project’s financial performance. Savvy investors know that to ensure optimal returns, O&M considerations for all system aspects must be evaluated as part of any project’s overall economics – well before breaking ground.
Solar racking is one of the most important components in any ground-mount system, since it is the backbone that must securely support and position key power-generating components—PV modules, for 20 or more years. Over the past few years, the industry has begun to move away from fixed-tilt racking structures to trackers due to their higher energy yield. Horizontal, single-axis trackers (SATs) are now the leading choice among trackers since they can deliver 20-30% more energy without the added cost and complexities of dual-axis or azimuth tracking systems. Although now broadly accepted in the market, SATs may raise O&M questions for developers that may not be experienced with a specific product or technology. In this white paper, we will examine the factors to consider when evaluating solar tracker technologies from an O&M perspective. We will explore the following commonly asked questions:
- Do SATs achieve a lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) overall when taking O&M into account?
- What O&M criteria should my company consider when selecting a single-axis tracker?
- Are there standard tracker designs that lend themselves to lower O&M costs?
- Are there standard components across linked row and unlinked row trackers?
- What system parts and upgrades will be available for the life of my project and how should my company evaluate the viability of a long-term SAT partner?