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From Italy to Denmark: our practical experience with tracker selection and construction

From Italy to Denmark: our practical experience with tracker selection and construction

Freefields
Components

29.04.2023

Nowadays, trackers are an increasingly popular way to get electricity from photovoltaic panels. These designs allow the panels to be ideally oriented to the sun throughout the day, which significantly increases the power output. What are the basic advantages, characteristics and our practical experience in selecting and building trackers?

Comparison with a conventional fixed structure fitted with south-facing panels 

The main advantage of a tracker is to have the panels set in an ideal position relative to the sun all year round. By rotating the structure according to the position of the sun, more electricity can be extracted from the panels. Long-term measurements confirm that panels on tilt structures produce approximately one-third more electricity than fixed-installation photovoltaics. Moreover, thanks to the winding, the electricity production is evenly distributed throughout the day. Photovoltaics reach high power soon after sunrise and maintain it until sunset. Although the output at these times is lower than at midday, it is still significantly higher than that of panels facing steadily south. In addition, PV generation with cranking better covers the morning and evening peaks in electricity demand, allowing it to take advantage of higher feed-in tariffs during these time periods.

From Italy to Denmark
Typically, trackers are built in Southern Europe, where the higher number of solar hours can actually result in 30% higher annual production than on a conventional fixed substructure. Last year, we started tracker construction in the Emilia-Romaña region north of Bologna, Italy. The PV plant for the major Italian electricity distributor ENEL has a total installed capacity of 16.87 MWp. A very robust tracker design from Italian manufacturer PVH was chosen, with a length of 60 m and 54 panels. We must not forget the time required for installation. The more components, requirements for higher precision ramming of the piles (using laser only) and assembly, the greater the time and money required for both installation and operation and maintenance.

 

We are currently working on a second Italian "revamp" project where we are doing a complete conversion of a 1 MWp PV plant from a fixed structure and central inverters to Comal trackers and Sungrow string inverters. This involves one plant on flat terrain near the romantic town of Verona and five more plants in southern Italy near the seaside town of Termoli, where the terrain is very sloping with many terrain irregularities.

Windy Denmark 
Due to our previous experience, we were asked by our Greek client to assist in the repair and completion of a PV plant on the popular NEXTracker NX Horizon west of Lemvig. In the design and selection of the trackers, the engineers had to deal with an area of high winds, possible snowfall, but also proximity to the sea and requirements for increased corrosion resistance. In addition to the Nordic rainy weather and waterlogged ground, we also had to cope with a challenging distribution of parts, as 5 types of trackers of different configurations (81, 54 and 27 panels; three areas with different pile driving methods) and lengths are used, with the longest reaching almost 100 m.

If you are looking for a way to maximize the performance of your PV plant, you should consider investing in trackers. These designs offer benefits such as higher electricity production, even distribution of production throughout the day, and coverage of morning and evening peaks in electricity consumption. If you decide to build a tracker, you should carefully consider the specific type of tracker and the company that will supply and install the system, as the complexity and time required for installation and maintenance can vary significantly between different models and manufacturers.

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