Interview: Soltec CEO Raúl Morales discusses the energy yield advantages of trackers


As a tracker specialist, what are the main market pressures Soltec aims to solve?
Raúl Morales:
The principal problems of Soltec customers are achieving greater cost-effectiveness, and forming a reliable tracker-supplier partnership. Soltec helps customers find success with their large projects that use ground-mounted solar PV tracking equipment.

Cost-effectiveness is a principal criterion of innovation at Soltec, and it has found success with the SF Utility tracker by maximizing land-use options while also minimizing costs. The objective of innovation is to increase competitive advantages for customers.

The new generation SF7 tracker being rolled-out this summer follows on the SF Utility legacy with yet greater yield per acre, and yet lower costs of BOP material and installation labor. SF7 is destined to set a new industry benchmark as the essence of solar tracker cost-effectiveness.

SF7 uniquely tolerates steep-slope installation to 17% grade on the North-South axis, compared to 10% of the leading competitor. SF7 mounting brackets uniquely offer the widest range of assembly tolerances to construction variables of irregular land or imperfect site preparation, at a cost that works as well on not-so-challenging terrain.

SF7 uniquely provides for complete module-fill on the tracker, fully 5% greater than the leading competitor. That translates into 5% higher MW per acre from the same plant area. By eliminating the array-gaps over all pile-mounting locations, SF7 takes a step to the higher refinement of a mature standard product.

Given the ever-evolving cost pressures inherent in the solar industry, how do Soltec’s trackers help to improve margins for plant owners?
SF7 saves time specifically in installation and maintenance, and more generally along the chain of events in developing and executing the supply contract with Soltec.

Installation time-saving is at the heart of SF7 innovation. It is evidenced in comparison with a leading competitor, and: 46% fewer piles-per-MW, 15% less parts count, and 58% fewer screw type connections. That all adds up to faster installation.

Time-saving is also achieved in supply contract execution that counts on Soltec’s Solhub logistics system of synchronized global factory warehouse stock with regional operations per customer project schedule. Onsite deliveries are unitized tracker packages ready to distribute onsite with minimal onsite handling, and with no intermediate handling companies between Soltec factories and the customer site.

Energy is saved at installation with the lowest pier-per-MW spec on the market that translates into less pile-driver time and less emissions of carbon dioxide; and coincidentally less disruption of the natural terrain.

Maintenance time-saving begins with Near Field Communications (NFC) at the tracker level to facilitate individual tracker maintenance operations. Washing the PV array is a time-consuming task. With SF7 Face to Face positioning, the washing vehicle is addressing twice the array-area per vehicle pass compared to the leading competitor, reducing proportionately the hours-per-MW washing rate.

SF7 is easily adopted by customers in terms of reliable supply lead-times and sufficient supply capacity (2.5 GW annual). Moreover, adoption of the greatest product cost-effectiveness on the market comes easily as well.

The thirst for innovation is rarely sated in the solar industry, so how does Soltec ensure its technology stays relevant?
Soltec solar tracker innovation tracks the company history of 12 years as a PV specialist whose business model has evolved from complete solar EPC services to the strategic focus as manufacturer and supplier of the SF7 standard product horizontal single-axis tracker, and providing high-grade customer experience. The history of innovation has incorporated the following features:

  • Independent-row tracker architecture that leverages the advances of cutting-edge technology, in contrast to linked-row architecture commercialized in the 1990’s. The result is greater cost-effectiveness and reduced impact of potential tracker downtime. In the global market, the independent-row type is taking 66% of market share with just six years in commercialization, compared to 25 years’ commercialization of the linked-row type.
  • Tracker equipment with the highest assembly tolerance of construction variables including steep-slope (17% grade NS), short-steps and not-square property corners (<48 meters), and terrain contours and irregularities (+/- 0.20 meters). These features result in simple installation where others simply cannot install without prohibitive additional cost; and they reduce the cost aspects of civil works and site preparation.
  • Short-tracker design with two-up portrait module configuration that results in double-wide aisles between tracker rows that facilitate maintenance and safe passage, and results in the lowest piles-per-MW spec on the market.
  • Yield increasing features that include: complete tracker module-fill, 120º+ tracking arc, and individual tracker asymmetric backtracking control.
  • Robust wireless mesh communications from NFC at tracker level to plant SCADA integration and global Web access.
  • Self-powered operation providing the lowest cost of operational power thanks to the unique PV Series Power Supply that leverages tremendous PV array power availability to supply the remarkably low power load of tracker drive, control, and communications.

BOP savings related to managing PV source circuits with DC Harness and String Runner innovations incorporated in SF7. With DC Harness, Soltec uniquely takes on the investment challenge to factory-assemble a cabling harness using automotive type quick-connectors (MC4) and lower cost aluminum wire. DC Harness performs both the source circuit-fusing and combining functions, eliminating the typical combiner box and its installation. The result is faster installation and less BOP cost.

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