Full Title: Tracking Your Solar Investment: Best Practices for Solar Tracker O&M
Author(s): Martin Rogers & Rue Phillips
Publisher(s): NEXTracker
Publication Date: 03/2017

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Description (excerpt):
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:

  1. Do SATs achieve a lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) overall when taking O&M into account?
  2. What O&M criteria should my company consider when selecting a single-axis tracker?
  3. Are there standard tracker designs that lend themselves to lower O&M costs?
  4. Are there standard components across linked row and unlinked row trackers?
  5. 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?