Solar tracking systems work with panels to expertly follow and capture sunlight. Like sunflowers, they find the best position to absorb all that solar goodness. If you’re new to the solar savings game, you might wonder whether investing in tracking devices is a good idea. Although they maximise your energy production, they can be expensive and difficult to maintain.
Whether a solar panel tracking system is a good investment depends on how much sun you get in your area. In sunny Australia, they are usually an unnecessary extra expense.
What is a solar panel tracking system?
A solar panel tracking system follows the sun's path throughout the day. Unlike a fixed system, tracking panels move to capture as much sunlight as possible. The system is made up of two parts – the panels themselves and a tracking device that monitors the sun. You’ll typically find tracking systems with ground-mounted solar systems, but they are known to work with rooftop systems as well.
Solar trackers are auto-control tracking systems. They comprise of PV cells, a PLC (programmable logic controller), sensors, power supply systems, motion control modules, and signal processing units. The electrical components help the tracking device orient the panels. The sensors and processing units convey information to the PLC, instructing a motor to adjust the solar panels. This is a general insight into the workings of trackers, but the exact way they move might differ depending on what system you have.
People install solar tracking systems to get the most out of their solar panels. Theoretically, if the panels always face the sun, they absorb more light, which equals more energy. How solar panels are oriented can affect their efficiency.
When was solar panel tracking developed?
The history of solar tracking can be traced back to the 1900s! French engineer and physicist Harry E. Trombe invented a mechanical device that used clockwork to track the sun. In the 1970s and 80s, there was a renewed interest in solar power, which led to numerous pioneers and solar enthusiasts developing the technology into what we have today.
Solar panel tracking vs fixed panel
Solar tracking systems will expose your panels to more sunlight than fixed systems. This can increase solar energy by capturing more sunlight in the early morning and evening. However it depends on factors like your equipment and geographical location.
If your equipment can't efficiently turn the extra sunlight caught by a solar panel tracking system into solar energy or if it's more than you can use or store, you might not see real benefits.
Since tracking systems are expensive, weighing the costs and benefits carefully is crucial. Consider the installation expenses, ongoing maintenance, and potential repair costs, as tracking systems have more complex parts prone to malfunctions.
Fixed panels are low maintenance and generally more affordable. Once you’ve installed them on your roof or property, you can usually leave them alone to do their thing. If more energy is what you’re after, you might be better off simply installing more panels.
While solar panel tracking systems are somewhat superfluous or a “nice to have” in Australia, they have an important role in other countries that get less sun such as Norway.
What types of solar panel tracking systems are there?
Solar panel tracking systems are classified by how they move on one or two axes. A single-axis tracker typically moves from east to west.
A dual-axis system tracks east to west and north to south. The best part about moving in all directions is they can maximise the amount of sunlight the panels absorb. It’s also able to adjust to smaller spaces. If your property struggles to generate enough solar energy, a dual system might help make the most of the sun’s rays. However, it does come with some disadvantages. Multiple moving parts are at higher risk of damage or wear, reducing the dual-axis system’s lifespan. Because the system is more complex, it can also be difficult to install.
Single-axis systems are generally more reliable. They’re not stationary, but they move less than a dual-axis system. They’re also more affordable. The downside is you might not get as much accuracy and solar generation as a dual system.
What is the price of a solar panel tracking system?
The price of solar panel tracking systems greatly depends on what you’re getting. If you’re adding a tracking system onto an existing system, you’re looking at $500 to $1000 per panel. A new solar system with a tracking device could be anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000 based on size. That’s not including installation costs and maintenance.
When weighing your options, consider energy usage, location, and feed-in tariffs. Depending on your household energy needs, a regular, static solar or solar + battery system may be more than adequate. If you’re located in an area with plenty of access to natural sunlight (which, let’s face it, a lot of Aussies are), paying extra for tracking technology might not generate the savings you expect. Lastly, some governments offer rebates for unused solar energy that households push back into the main grid. In some cases, these feed-in tariffs help offset the cost of the system, but in others, they provide very little support.
Is a solar panel tracking system right for me?
If you’re an everyday Aussie looking to make major solar savings, investing in solar tracking might not be right for you. If you’ve got plenty of access to sunlight and a perfectly functional roof, getting a static rooftop solar + battery system will help you slash your energy bills and gain greater energy independence without putting a gaping hole in your savings.
The cost of a solar system is enough to make anyone nervous, but with Plico, we can put your mind at ease. Our members get a quality solar + battery, battery only or solar only system for one low weekly fee, with no big upfront costs. We also provide 10 years of ongoing support for your system. What’s more, when we install your panels, we use special tilting technology to get your panels at the optimal angle for maximum sun exposure.
Chat with a switched-on team member on 1300 175 426 to discuss our range of solar solutions.