GTM Solar Summit Salute

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Panel: Single-Axis Trackers & Bifacial Modules - Overall System Impacts on Performance and CostsThe Green Tech Media (GTM) Solar Summit 2019 was everything a major solar conference should be. It was great to see so many colleagues and partners sharing ideas on the latest developments (including bifacial modules paired with single-axis trackers) in the global solar market. From the lively discussions in moderated panels to the networking happy hours, I was definitely in my element.

I was honored to have a seat on the most interesting panel during the solar summit discussing the system impacts on performance and costs of single-axis trackers and bifacial modules. We had a great conversation with a big crowd of interested people who had deep-dive questions. My favorite!

These are some of the major topics we discussed on the panel, plus answers to questions that were sent in to GTM and not discussed live, but I think are worth mentioning.

Deployment and scale of bifacial with trackers

It’s not a question of “What will it take to really have full adoption of bifacial models and trackers?” The whole panel agreed that that’s already happened. They’re ubiquitous right now. It’s kind of similar to trackers being used on utility sites overall; it’s a given that they go together.

We really don’t have to convince our customers that are using bifacial modules to also use trackers. It’s the exact opposite. Our customers are coming to us and saying, “How can a tracker help us increase production even further?”

Bifacial modules and single-axis trackers are essentially the obvious option to solve this problem now.

Are mismatched losses more of an issue with bifacial modules?

In short, not really.

Secondarily, because that backside shading is so minimal, we’re not seeing hotspots at all. So, we’re not saying it’s not an issue, because it is something we’re watching for and measuring. But so far, what we’ve seen has been negligible.

Are the panels bankable in today’s market at the higher forecasted production?

They’re not fully bankable yet. Until we as an industry can get more-accurate, better modeling, the full production is not going to be bankable. More on how Array is addressing this in my three key takeaways at the bottom of this post.

Have we found the optimal combination with bifacial and single-access trackers, or is there room for more improvement?

I believe that with single-axis trackers, the answer is yes we have. Dual-axis trackers are not the answer. Fixed-tilt is not the answer.

We’re still doing testing, so we haven’t given up on optimization, but according to all the test data we have thus far, our high-rise clamp with our standard tracker is optimized from both the production and cost standpoints.

So no, it’s never the end, so to speak. We’re going to continue to innovate, but I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s as disruptive as a single-axis tracker combined with bifacial modules.

“We’re taking a smart approach to customizing our tracker for bifacial modules so that we’re not eating up that extra energy production by adding complexity to the tracker or complexity to the overall system.”

– Travis Rose, Vice President of Sales for Array Technologies

Three major Solar Summit takeaways from Array

  1. Array’s testing to optimize our tracker for bifacial modules. We have done our due diligence in testing to optimize our tracker for bifacial. This amazing new technology comes with more power and better efficiency, but it also poses new challenges. At Array, we’re never satisfied to sit on our laurels and coast. There is always a way to optimize and do things better. To that end, we continue to model and field test our tracker with bifacial modules.
  2. Optimizing without adding complexity. When we do any optimization around bifacial, we always keep in mind our core values of not adding complexity to the systems, continuing with our best-in-class LCOE, and not affecting the reliability of our systems. While optimizing for bifacial we are always careful to not add complexity or cost or make our tracker less reliable which would defeat our value proposition.
  3. Modeling for easier monetization and better bankability. The biggest challenge the industry has right now in the bifacial space is taking the actual real-world testing data we have and applying it to a model to prove bankability for the production of a bifacial site. Financiers are very conservative by nature, so right now they’re only monetizing or financing a portion of that extra production; it’s because of the skepticism of the modeling of the sites.By putting  real-world data into modeling, we’re helping to loosen up financing for bifacial moving forward. This is great for the solar industry and energy production as a whole.

Solar Summit Salute

Whether you were able to make it out to the Solar Summit or not, I hope you found this window into one of the most promising developments in solar helpful. If you have any questions about how our trackers can improve bifacial production, reach out to us today to get them answered.

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