Why intelligent tracker software is crucial to your solar project’s success
By Andy Fouse, Director of Software Development
The eternal question for solar developers and asset owners is: how to increase the energy yield of solar installations. After all, higher energy production equals better power purchase agreement (PPA) competitiveness, improved margins and greater potential for higher ROI.
sun trackers are the answer. Thanks to their ability to track the movements of the sun, trackers produce significantly more energy than their fixed-tilt counterparts, up to 35% more power in combination with two-sided panels. Once considered risky investments, trackers now outperform fixed tilt systems in most markets.
A key driver of this growth is advances in tracker technology as manufacturers innovate products to be more reliable and adaptable. Today’s trackers are sturdier than their predecessors despite using less steel and fewer components, while improvements in installation and site design techniques also open up new avenues for tracker development, even in areas with difficult terrain and weather.
As the mechanical components of trackers become more robust and adaptable, controls and software will likely be central to the next phase of the tracker’s growth. Developers and asset owners should leverage the power of intelligent tracker technology to boost energy production and optimize tracker performance, giving your projects better returns and a long-term competitive advantage.
5 key features to look out for in intelligent tracker software
Investing in trackers is not without risk. Not implementing the right tracker solution can cut budgets and hinder your potential. Apart from durable mechanical parts, intelligent software is an essential component that cannot be overlooked. Here are five things to consider:
- Adaptive machine learning
The days are getting longer and shorter throughout the year, and as trackers work to optimize the angle of incidence (where sunlight hits the surface of PV modules), tracker technology needs to be dynamic to account for these changes. Adaptive machine learning uses data and algorithms to create a projection of where rows should be at different times of the day, optimizing their positions to obtain maximum sunlight exposure.
Another way machine learning can boost energy production is by reducing shading. Shadowing can dampen energy yield, but backtracking algorithms allow the software to determine when a row is in shadow from east to west and position modules accordingly to avoid shadowing adjacent rows.
- Smart weather API and sensors
Weather was once a major barrier to tracker projects, but with developers building in harsher weather regions, tracker technology has also evolved to better mitigate risk. On-site weather stations are equipped with sensors that send data to the network controller, which instructs sites to back up when snow and wind thresholds are crossed. And instead of waiting for bad weather to happen, the smart weather API takes a proactive approach by predictively putting away sites before the event happens.
- Real-time monitoring capabilities
The only way to optimize operations is to know how your sites are always performing. Intelligent tracker technology enables operators to solve problems before they affect performance, saving costs and mitigating worst-case scenarios. Features like an easy-to-use dashboard with a job card that gives you a quick overview of your sites across multiple devices, including desktop and mobile, ensures you’re notified and can quickly resolve issues, even when you’re on the go.
- Helpful Troubleshooting
Predictive analytics is used to uncover problems that were once buried, while machine learning tells us when a row is not following its normal path. In the past, an error in the system meant that a truck would have to roll on site, which translates into a long time to diagnose a problem and loss of productivity. The right tracker software solution should not only provide the ability to monitor assets in real time, but also diagnose issues remotely through an easy-to-use interface. Look for tracker software that stores data in the cloud so you can easily access historical data and perform predictive analytics to identify potential issues.
- Remote updates
As tracker software continues to innovate, new features will make sites more efficient and increase productivity. Good tracker software allows sites to receive new and improved features seamlessly, without a person on site. With remote updates, previously built sites can easily take advantage of new functionality, evolving as technology does.
Ready to get on the right track?
While industry headwinds such as limited land availability and rising costs can make trackers challenging to develop, the return potential is also commensurate, provided you are well equipped with the right solution and associated expertise.
Terrasmart’s PeakYield™ technology and TerraTrak racking provide a comprehensive solution that covers all bases: the former uses software intelligence and site design techniques to optimize your tracker’s performance; the latter offers a durable racking solution that integrates with both ground screws and posts to eliminate the risk of refusal. Combined with Terrasmart’s expertise in developing custom solutions based on a collaborative approach with customers, you can take your projects to new heights and discover growth opportunities in areas never thought possible.
Learn more about Terrasmart’s intelligent tracker technology, PeakYield™, in our ebook and see how it can help you reach new heights in energy production.
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