Solar energy has become inexpensive enough to manufacture and advanced enough to where it can be used to replace most or all of the energy that you get from the regular power grid. While you can set up a solar system without a tracking device, there are some pretty compelling reasons to include one. There are also some reasons why you may want to simply skip this component and run your solar panels without it.
But in order to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a solar tracker, you have to first understand what a solar tracker is and what it does. You should also be aware of the varying types of solar trackers and some other information that can affect the pros and cons, eliminating some of them completely or making others have even more weight than they would on another type of tracker. Having this information will help you be able to understand the advantages and disadvantages better and make a more informed decision.
What is a Solar Tracker?
So, what is a solar tracker anyway? A solar tracker is a module that is installed on your system and determines the angle that your solar panels should be at, based upon the sun’s position in the sky. The reason that solar trackers are installed with modern systems is so that efficiency can be maximized and you are able to get more power from the same solar setup. Solar trackers are not that expensive, and they come included in many solar panel systems that are already completed or come as a kit. However, since each panel has to be automatically movable, it does take some work to set up a solar tracker if your system is not already configured to use one. These trackers work in conjunction with all of the other components of the system including the panels themselves, storage battery and more.
Two Types of Trackers
There are two different types of solar trackers to be aware of. The first is the single axis solar panel tracker. Single axis trackers only operate on one axis or direction. For example, they may be able to tilt forwards or backwards to capture the sun’s rays and follow it across the sky. This is often sufficient, since the sun is directly overhead in many cases depending upon how you set up your solar panels and you just have to follow it from its rise in the east and its setting in the west. On the other hand, dual axis solar panel trackers are able to change position by tilting forward and backwards as well as by tilting from side to side. These are useful if your solar panel setup would be able to gather more sunrays by tilting from side to side or if you need to get every ounce of power you can from your current panel system.
Advantages of Solar Tracker Systems
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of solar tracker systems. Some of these may not be true for your particular system, but for the majority of trackers out there they will apply.
- First of all, solar trackers improve the efficiency of the solar system and the output of solar panels. Depending upon where you live, installing a tracking system could increase the efficiency of your solar panel set up by anywhere from 10% to 25%. You can move panels manually in order to capture more sunlight, but this can get tedious after a while.
- Besides increasing overall efficiency, solar panels may also allow you to get more from the incentives offered by your electric company. Specifically, they may be able to power your home during times of the day where you would pay the most for electrical service. Utility companies sometimes charge more for certain times of day where electricity is popular, and if you can get enough juice from your solar system then you can skip this increased cost.
- If you are limited on the amount of space you have for a solar panel system, then you may want to install a tracking system is as efficient as possible. That way, you are able to use fewer solar panels and take up less space. Some people are installing solar panels on their lawns or roofs where space can be at a premium. In addition, you will be spending less money on your solar panel system simply because you do not have to buy as many solar panels to meet the same power requirement.
Disadvantages of Solar Tracking Systems
Now, let’s discuss some of the disadvantages of solar tracking systems so that you can make a balanced and informed decision about whether or not to get one.
- One of the disadvantages to be aware of when it comes to solar panel systems that have trackers is that you are probably going to be doing more maintenance and spending a little more money on. If you buy your system complete instead of putting it together yourself, the manufacturer may offer a maintenance plan. These plans are usually higher if you are having trackers installed as well.
- You also may want to skip solar panel trackers if you live in an area where you get snow for a significant portion of the year. Solar trackers and snow do not work well together. Falling snow weighs down your solar panels and makes it extremely difficult for your trackers to work. Of course, a layer of snow may also impact the amount of solar energy you were able to capture as well.
- Finally, you want to be aware that solar tracking systems are fairly expensive and solar panel setups that have solar tracking capabilities are going to cost you more. Of course, they also save money as described above, so you’re going to have to balance the two and decide which is higher.