Utility-scale power plant projects around the world are running into a common challenge. The ideally flat sites are either drying up or being used for other purposes, meaning PV plants need to find solar solutions that enable terrain flexibility and allow EPCs, designers, developers, and operators to maximize production in challenging locations.
Because the Array DuraTrack® HZ v3 single-axis solar tracker leverages a centralized design with rows linked by drivelines, it’s often thought of as a less-than-perfect solution for challenging sites, such as those with rolling hills or irregular site boundaries.
However, the DuraTrack®, particularly when combined with Array’s SmarTrack™ energy yield optimization software platform, can bring tremendous terrain flexibility and production gains to these projects.
How DuraTrack Optimizes Production, Regardless of Terrain
Array DuraTrack® trackers offer extremely high tolerances for terrain flexibility. DuraTrack® allows for up to 40° of combined angle in the east-west direction and up to 26% grades in the north-south direction.
“For example, if the east-west slope is four degrees and the skew of the block is 25 degrees, then your combined angle will be 29 degrees,” said Anubhav Tandon, Array Senior Principal Engineer. “If there is no skew to your rows, then the east-west slope can go all the way up to 40 degrees.”
Array trackers also allow for essentially limitless post-reveal heights, meaning that budget and wind requirements can be used to determine heights without worry about whether the tracker solution can be designed to meet those conditions.
Finally, DuraTrack®’s articulated drivelines also empower designers to work within unconventional site boundaries, further promoting flexibility in the face of challenging conditions.
These factors add up to proven benefits, including:
- Optimized power density through the elimination of module “dead spaces” caused by motors and bearings, which empowers designers to minimize the gap between modules and increase the overall area where panels can be mounted.
- Accommodation of challenging, unusual sites without the need for excessive grading, minimizing initial CAPEX spend.
- Engineered simplicity – quite literally fewer moving parts—that encourages overall component failure risk and boosts reliability over the decades-long lifespan of a modern solar plant, lowering overall cost of ownership.
The benefits of leveraging DuraTrack® single-axis trackers are amplified by Array’s SmartTrack™ software solution, which aids in navigating complex sites to optimize production by allowing for more optimal backtracking, low-light module adjustment and advanced machine learning related to row height differences and uneven terrain.
Terrain Flexibility in Action in Around the Globe
Turkish solar developer STC Elektronic partnered with Array to address challenging terrain on a 24MW solar portfolio in the country, which often reserves large, flat sites for agricultural purposes, offering another example of why empowering PV plants to navigate complex geometry is so critical to the future of solar energy.
“Most of the projects in Turkey come with a demanding slope requirement, as they are being built on hills,” Tandon said. “This makes our tracker a viable option.”
Each one of three sites faced its own unique challenges, including steep or rolling terrain, difficult soil and forested conditions. However, because of the aforementioned articulation and tolerances, DuraTrack® trackers were able to account for natural land contours and extreme slopes.
A Commitment to Optimal Performance and Lifetime Cost of Ownership
Array offers a variety of expert engineering and consultation services beginning at the bidding stage, meaning solar projects have access to our expert teams before any formal business relationship has been established.
Array helps designers, EPCs, owners and more engage in robust slope analysis, helping determine the banding of the site’s slope, exterior row count, row location and locations that allow for rows to be placed on the least challenging terrain.
Array also offers grading and topographical analysis and competitive comparisons, which often find millions of dollars in savings when compared to less flexible tracking solutions.
“This analysis can also provide average north-facing slope or south-facing slopes,” Tandon said. “This is very helpful in getting accurate production estimations, as trackers in the northern hemisphere gain more energy if their rows are pointed toward the south and vice versa.”
Array brings these services to market because we’re committed to helping every solar site optimize production, regardless of whether the site eventually leverages DuraTrack® or not. Array’s engineering services help reduce grading and steel costs, avoid related environmental regulation challenges, and optimize both production and the site’s balance between CAPEX and OPEX. Often, a slightly more significant capital investment leads to a lower total cost of ownership.