Array Technologies starts 30th year in solar promoting SmarTrack to optimize bifacial PV production

Array Technologies

Array Technologies already sees a 9 to 10 percent gain in bifacial tracking performance.

Along the many ups and downs of the solar coaster, Array Technologies trackers have stood the test of time as 2019 marks the company’s 30th anniversary.

“When I started in the solar industry over 30 years ago, I dreamed about the growth and development that this industry would go through,” said founder and chief innovation officer Ron Corio. “More than anything, I’m proud that Array has been able to help foster that growth, and continues to move the world in a more sustainable direction through continued technology-based innovation.”

Over its 30 years, Array has been a critical partner in the marked growth of single axis tracking applications which are now utilized in upwards of 80% of all utility-scale installations. Early installations from Array helped the PV industry achieve significant cost efficiencies and increased energy output. Array’s pioneering nature continues with the expansion of its presence in emerging solar regions such as Australia and Latin America.

RELATED: Bifacial Gains: How much will bifacial modules add to solar tracker value? We are about to find out

“Solar power is inherently international,” said CEO Jim Fusaro, “besides expanding our business we aim to provide reliable solar trackers to our customers with the highest yields in both energy production and financial returns.”

With a proven history of meeting and exceeding investor expectations, Array continues on a path to push the industry forward. Recently, the company introduced their newest innovation, the self-learning assisted SmarTrack, which automatically optimizes tracking to allow bifacial and split-cell modules to capture the most energy.

“To this day, Array is still driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that causes us to constantly push new boundaries to benefit both our current and future customers,” said Fusaro.

— Solar Builder magazine

RPCS turns to TerraSmart ground screws on challenging Nebraska solar tracker project

RPCS Array tracker Nebraska

RPCS partnered with GenPro Energy Solutions and the City of Atkinson to build a 209-kW solar array in Nebraska on a particularly challenging site. The city formerly used the Atkinson-owned site for fill, a place where soil, trees, and debris were brought then covered with dirt. This created embedment depths up to 30 feet — three times the norm — which would need longer than normal I-beams that would add significant costs for construction and material. Moreover, loose soil and debris could cause refusal of the post for a regular piledriver.

The City of Atkinson also wanted a tracked system that could provide enough energy to offset the energy consumption of their Water Treatment Plant. Through NPPD’s Buy-Sell Solar Rider, Atkinson can create long-term cash flow for the city through the production of solar energy.

Project developer GenPro Energy Solutions, which specializes in municipal solar development throughout the Midwest, brings design and custom energy solution integration expertise to the project while RPCS helped drive a creative solution to a complex engineering issue.

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The solution was to use the DuraTrack HZ v3 single-axis solar tracker by Array Technologies, supplied by RPCS. Array’s mounting technology ensured up to a 20 to 25 percent increase in energy production over fixed-tilt systems. RPCS designs and installs Array tracker systems throughout the country, with hundreds of projects completed to date in the utility and distributed generation markets.

RPCS nebraska solar project

To overcome the embedment issue, the project features TerraSmart‘s ground screw foundation posts, a seamless solution to the challenging nature of the site’s subsurface conditions. TerraSmart and Array solar trackers were integrated for the first time on this project, a partnership forged with the help of RPCS. TerraSmart’s ground screws have a better ability to resist uplift than I-beams in loose soil and can drill into debris, reducing upfront construction costs and eliminating subsurface risks.

“This project is a great example of how teamwork, engineering, and innovative solutions can help overcome site challenges and result in the most efficient design for all parties involved. GenPro’s value engineering, Array’s superior grade tolerance, and TerraSmart’s unique foundation posts all allowed for a system that will maximize power production for the City of Atkinson,” says RPCS Sales Director Dylan Wraga. “There were underground challenges that TerraSmart’s solution was well suited to, and combined with Array’s reliable architecture this system will be producing clean power for many years to come.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Kansas community college adds solar to curriculum and campus via RP Construction Services

RPCS cloud county community college

As part of Kansas’ Cloud County Community College’s Solar Energy Technology program, new solar energy courses — spurred by the installation of a new on-campus solar site — will train students for high-tech, high-wage jobs in the exciting, emerging solar industry through innovative teaching and educational partnerships.

The site will service the campus’s energy needs, and will be installed by students enrolled in the program. Historically focusing on wind energy, solar was a natural transition. The program is centered around hands-on training for solar projects, including construction and electrical training for both residential and commercial solar.

“The curriculum blends on-campus, on-line and distance learning, land-lab, and field training opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students,” the college’s website states. This educational program will produce a qualified workforce to serve the emerging solar industry throughout Kansas and the nation.

Founded in 1965, Cloud County Community College is dedicated to delivering high quality, innovative, and accessible educational opportunities and services that prepare a diverse population to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners who can meet the challenges of an ever-changing global community.

Students, faculty, and staff of the college formed an active, volunteer-based group that has named itself the “Go Green Committee,” which has distinguished itself on campus with numerous environmentally-friendly efforts. The college earned a Green Power Partnership, awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a voluntary program encouraging organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.

The 200-kW site features LONGi 340W solar panels on Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 single-axis solar trackers. Array’s mounting technology keeps the modules following the sun on its course throughout the day, ensuring up to a 20 to 25% increase in energy production over fixed-tilt systems. RP Construction Services Inc. (RPCS), California-based solar construction contractor and Array Technologies’ trusted partner, helped supply the project

Andrew Clark, Cloud County Community College Renewable Energy Technology instructor and also the project’s construction manager, used his experience as a local solar installer to help students with the installation process and guide them in overcoming challenges posed by snowy weather.

“It was my dream when I started teaching at Cloud to introduce solar to the program offerings,” says Clark. “Once I found out that was possible, I decided the program needed a solar project, so I imagined a small solar array to get their feet wet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to be able to secure funding for the project and finish it the very next year. It really has blown my mind all that we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time. I have to thank everyone who was involved; they helped make it possible.”

The program hopes to complete the project in a few weeks, celebrating with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolAmerica Energy goes with SolarFlex Rack TDP 2.0 trackers for eight Georgia projects

SolAmericas REDI Project Portfolio installed with Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Solar Trackers with BalanceTrac

SolAmerica Energy installed Solar FlexRack’s new TDP 2.0 Solar Trackers in eight solar projects located across the state of Georgia. The new Solar FlexRack 2.0 Tracker with BalanceTrac introduces a technology that increases overall system efficiency, array design options and enables increased energy yield. The TDP 2.0 Tracker design expands the number of modules per row (up to 90) and is compatible with 1,000 or 1,500V thin film or crystalline modules. It also enables the installation of shorter piles and a lower per-unit fixed costs for balance of system, significantly reducing project installation costs.

“We require high-quality solar mounting and tracking products and support services in our solar projects. Solar FlexRack has consistently met our standards for performance, reliability and durability,” said Peter Corbett, Senior Vice President of SolAmerica Energy.

RELATED: Engineering Insight: Inside Solar FlexRack’s second generation tracker

SolAmerica, a leading solar development, engineering, procurement and construction contractor based in Atlanta, developed and managed the construction of the solar project portfolio with the local utility. The projects are part of a distributed generation plan that enables commercial businesses to purchase sustainable, carbon-free solar energy.

“SolAmerica is playing an important role in working with the local utility to help companies throughout the state have the choice of clean energy through well-constructed, distributed generation solar plants,” said Steve Daniel, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Solar FlexRack.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2017, Georgia’s national solar ranking was 22nd. Georgia has aggressively stepped up their solar program and today, the state ranks #10 with over 1.5 GW of solar installed and almost 4,500 employed in the industry.

— Solar Builder magazine

Bifacial Gains: How much will bifacial modules add to solar tracker value? We are about to find out

Soltec

Soltec is testing for all bifacial tracking variables at its new evaluation center in Livermore, Calif.

We are on the verge of the bifacial solar tracker era. Projects are being quoted with many starting to break ground later this year and early 2019.

Only two issues remain in the way of serious wide-spread adoption. First is the price of bifacial modules, which sits at about 30 cents a watt on average right now. The premium price makes sense because the market hasn’t formed yet, and it won’t form until there are bankable production estimates for the technology. That would be issue No. 2: the data set for bifacial tracker performance is incomplete, but this is about to change in a hurry.

Several big-time partnerships between tracker companies, module companies and PV research and testing labs have formed within the last year to understand this new bifacial module + PV tracker paradigm, test theories and build a complete data set on bifacial tracker production.

“This is a fundamentally different paradigm than before because the tracker and module are all intertwined with the site conditions in a way they weren’t before,” says Ron Corio, founder and CIO of Array Technologies.

Multiple approaches

The splashiest of these partnerships is Spain-based single-axis tracking supplier Soltec teaming with the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), Black and Veatch and RETC to build BiTEC, the world’s first evaluation center specialized in bifacial trackers, in Livermore, Calif. We visited the facility in July, and the site has a variety of configurations structured to isolate and measure any site or system design effect, such as:

  • Albedo
  • Terrain surface
  • Types of bifacial technology (from Hanwha-QCells, Jinko, Canadian Solar, LG and more)
  • GCR
  • Pitch
  • String design
  • 2x modules in portrait versus 1x.

One variable not changed throughout the field is tracker height, with all 2x configurations standing at 7.71 ft (with 1x configuration trackers at a height of 4.43 ft). The reason is Soltec’s preliminary electric performance measures over bifacial modules reveal a short-circuit current difference of over 2.3 percent between 1x and 2x trackers, meaning that height has a significant influence over the energy output of bifacial panels. The capture of diffuse irradiance below and around the tracker is increased with height, while the shadow cast on the ground is softened.

Array Technologies is taking a different approach. Also working with a U.S. national laboratory, Array is mapping the backside irradiance at a half cell resolution as well as testing various configurations at string level. Array’s testing is focused primarily on the module tracker interaction, varying module mounting techniques as well as testing module design variance. An important objective of this testing is to validate ray tracing simulation programs which will aid in the accurate modeling of bifacial performance in site-specific applications.

“We are working closely with the module manufacturers in a way we’ve never done before for exactly that reason,” Corio says. “When you design the module and the tracker as one system, you get a better result.”

In a comparative one year test, conducted in 2017, Array saw a 9 to 10 percent yearly gain for bifacial over monofacial at the same test site.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies already sees a 9 to 10 percent gain in bifacial tracking performance.

The difference in Soltec and Array’s testing approaches is in line with the difference in their tracking approaches — Soltec uses distributed tracker rows and Array supplys centralized drive. All of the performance gains reported will need to be considered within the already established LCOE of each tracker design.

Example: The torque tube impact is an early point of differentiation depending on who you ask. The Soltec testing team has seen the shadow from the torque tube in a 1x configuration hurting irradiance harvest in a way it does not when positioned in a 2x configuration, so its SF7 tracker includes an intentional gap between modules at the torque tube location that avoids shadowing on the backside of the module. Preliminary measurements have shown that up to 38 percent of reflected light does not reach the center of the bifacial modules compared to the edge due to the torque tube shadow of the 1x configuration. Array is quantifying the impact of the torque tube to harvestable rear side irradiance and testing modules with design characteristics that may use the torque tube as a performance advantage. All of Array’s test data will be compiled in an LCOE comparison.

The difference in testing isn’t really the point. The Lawrence Berkley National Lab noted during the Market Trends panel at Intersolar that the cost premium associated with tracker projects is all but gone with 79 percent of newly installed capacity being trackers. When all of this testing is done, the choice will still be the same centralized or distributed tracker decision its always been, just with these new bifacial performance gains to plug into the equation.

— Solar Builder magazine